Even if you don’t consider yourself math/science-minded, there are plenty of fun and easy ways for you and your children to discover the exciting world of math and science right at home. Here are some ideas:
Learn something new together.
So your 4-year-old wants to know why pteranodons don’t fly the skies anymore. Often we think it’s up to us to have all the answers.
The beauty of the early childhood years is that you get to learn about dinosaurs right along with your children. Their questions can lead you to places such as science museums and fun, child-friendly websites to learn more. They can also provide lots of opportunities to practice reading, writing and drawing – skills that grown-up scientists also use to let everyone know about their discoveries.
Bake a cake, or pat a pizza.
The measuring, cutting and mixing involved with cooking and baking offer lots of opportunities for math and science exploration. But be prepared – cooking with your children is more about the process than the beauty of the finished product. “The Baking Book” by Jane Bull and” Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up” by Mollie Katzen are two collections of yummy, kid-friendly recipes to try. (“Salad People” includes a fun recipe for Counting Soup, a perfect way for children to get their math and veggies all together.)
Count your pennies.
Once children are beyond the stage of popping everything into their mouths (usually during the preschool years, ages 3-5), coins can be wonderful tools for learning about patterns, colors and numbers/amounts. Extend your preschoolers’ money skills by setting up shop. Help them price a collection of their toys (e.g., 50 cents for teddy, $1 for the doll car) and have them count out the cash to pay for their favorites. Make sure they know this is play and that all their favorite toys will be given back.
All about me.
Children get a lot of pride from learning how old and tall they are or how much they weigh. Use tape measures (kids love having their own), rulers and the bathroom scale to help kids learn these vital statistics. You can also use non-traditional tools for measuring length (e.g., “Jacob is 28 blocks tall” or “The spoon is seven goldfish crackers long”) and estimating weight (e.g., “I wonder how many of my stuffed animals I need to pile on the scale in order to reach my weight”). Preschoolers can learn their address by singing it (e.g., “Sing a song of Sarah’s house at 995 South Street,” sung to the tune of “Sing a Song of Sixpence”) or clapping its syllables. Tech-savvy tots will enjoy punching in the numbers of their phone number on one of your old cell phones.
About the house.
Household repairs can offer you and your children fun opportunities to practice math skills (e.g., counting how many nails are needed to fix the picnic table, measuring wood and rope to make a new swing). Children can learn responsibility – as well as number skills and shapes – as they set the table with four square napkins, six round bowls and two cylindrical cups. Sorting and folding the laundry offer practice with matching, patterns and shapes.
Look for numbers and shapes in the world around us.
Car rides are a great time to look for the shapes of street signs or places where numbers pop up in the neighborhood and along the road. Make note of how a pizza starts out round and then becomes a bunch of triangles. Point out Mom’s round glasses and the rectangular door.