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Teach basic math skills with these 15 easy math games for preschoolers

These Montessori-inspired math activities are *so* much more fun than flash cards.

math activities for preschoolers

There are so many engaging ways to introduce math concepts to your preschooler or toddler, no worksheets or flash cards needed. And even if you don't consider yourself a Good Will Hunting-level math genius, it's easy and fun to help your little one learn basic math skills using toys and objects you already have around the house.

Math skills preschoolers + toddlers can learn at home

Before you jump into math activities with your child, here are some basic preschool math concepts to keep in mind. You can be on the lookout for these emerging skills and interests in your child to help you decide what kinds of math activities to try.

One-to-one correspondence: This is the concept that one number corresponds to one object. Sounds super basic, right? But have you ever watched a little kid "count?" They often rattle off numbers in quick succession, totally unrelated to the number of things they're counting. It takes practice and experience to figure out that when they say "one" they only count one object.

Numeral recognition + counting: This is just what it sounds like—learning the actual numerals. Children have to learn what a "1" and "2" look like and how to use those numbers to count.

Patterns + relationships: Help your child develop a mathematical mind by playing with patterns, and introducing simple concepts like "bigger versus smaller" and "greater than versus less than."

Shapes: Exploring different shapes and learning their names gives preschoolers and toddlers a foundation for geometry later. Don't be afraid to tell them the real names of shapes, no matter how many syllables long they are! Young kids like learning big words like "parallelogram" and "octagon"—and it will be easier for them to learn now, when they soak up vocabulary like a sponge, than later in their elementary years.

Basic addition + subtraction: For preschoolers, this definitely does not mean memorizing math facts. However, young children can begin to understand that combining two groups of things together makes a bigger group. You can keep this really concrete and fun with little kids—how many cookies would you have if I gave you one more?

And now on to the fun part, the activities! Keep these low-key and child-led. There should be no pressure to get a certain result at this age: Math is just a fun activity to do together.

15 math activities for preschoolers and toddlers that teach basic skills:

1. 1:1 Correspondence game

You can make super simple 1:1 correspondence cards with just notecards or card stock and stickers.

Place one sticker on one card, two stickers on the next card, three stickers on the next card, and so on. You can go up to 5 to start with and then expand to 10 if your child is ready and interested.

Give your child small objects that correspond to the stickers. For example, if you use green stickers on the cards, use green Lego pieces.

Show your child how to lay out the cards in a row and put an object on each sticker.

You'll notice there are no actual numbers or counting here. This is an early math activity to help children understand 1:1 correspondence before they even recognize numerals.

2. "Bring me" 5

This is a game you can easily play any time your child is getting bored or antsy—give them a purpose.

Say something like, "I wonder if you can find 5 teddy bears to bring me" or, "Please bring me 7 crayons."

When your child brings you the objects, simply count them together. They will notice if they brought the wrong number and will likely want to correct it—but if not, no worries!

Once your child learns written numerals, try giving them a written cue for the number of things to fetch. Write numbers on index cards, and hand your child a card with the number of things to find and bring back to you.

This has the added benefit of combining movement with learning, a concept used in Montessori to help children really absorb concepts.

3. Take it outside

Use sidewalk chalk to write the numbers 1-10 on the sidewalk.

Help your child think of numbers to gather for each number. For example, they might find one pinecone, two fallen leaves and three rocks.

Many children thrive when their learning environment is moved outside!

4. Guess how many?

Regardless of your own feelings about math, remember that numbers, especially big numbers, can be magical to little kids.

Choose anything you have a lot of—it could be a box of pasta or a bin of Legos—and say, "Hmm, I wonder how many noodles are in that box?" Then dump it out and proceed to count together.

Young children often find it thrilling when an adult makes a big mess, and they equally enjoy creating order from chaos and cleaning up the mess together.

5. Follow a recipe

There is so much simple math involved in cooking. For a toddler it may be as simple as, "Let's add three scoops of flour," but with an older preschooler you can start to introduce the concept of fractions.

For an older child, try letting them complete a recipe all on their own. Choose something forgiving like granola or homemade play dough recipe.

6. Make numbers out of playdough

Who knew playdough had so many uses for math? If your child likes art projects, shaping the numerals from play dough (and adding artistic flourishes) may be a fun way to help them learn their numbers.

Try creating the numbers out of play dough together. Experiencing the numeral shapes in a tactile, hands-on way can really help children absorb the knowledge.

7. Measure volume

Most kids love playing with water so measuring volume can be quite fun.

Use measuring cups (or an inexpensive set of beakers) to help kids visualize and answer questions about volume measurements. Ask, "I wonder how many cups of water would fit in your water table?" or, "I wonder how many tablespoons of water would fit in your cup?"

Simply pose the question out loud and watch them explore the concept.

8. Create a height chart

If you keep a height chart for your child, they will love this one. Help your preschooler make a height chart for their stuffed animals or dolls. This is a fun and simple way to introduce the concept of measurement.

9. Arranging by size

Start to introduce the concept of bigger versus smaller by arranging simple things by size.

You can do this with balls, blocks or even your family's socks and shoes.

10. Practice patterns

Understanding patterns is an integral part of mathematical learning. Luckily, it can be really fun to practice!

You can introduce patterns with stickers. Create a pattern on a piece of paper using stickers from your child's sticker stash, and invite them to create the same pattern on their own paper. Eventually they can begin crafting their own patterns.

This is also fun to do with Legos and Duplos. Build a tower using a color pattern and invite your child to do the same.

11. Bingo!

Many 3 and 4 year olds are beginning to love games. Bingo is one of the simplest games there is and can be a fun way for children to practice numeral recognition.

12. Play a board game

Even board games that aren't geared toward math—like the classic Hi Ho Cherry Oh—generally involve counting.

There are many other games specifically designed to help children master mathematical skills in a fun way. The Tiny Polka Dot game is a great one because it's simple enough for a 3-year-old, but has extensions for older children as well.

13. Sorting and counting candy

Next time your child has a pile of Easter or Halloween candy, invite them to sort and count it! "Let's see how many of each color are in your M&M bag." If you don't feel like breaking out the candy, you can do this with a bowl of berries or grapes as well.

14. Play a simple addition game

You can easily make your own addition game using whatever toys your child loves like tiny toy cars or little ladybug toys.

Place all of the objects in a basket with a die. Show your child how to roll the die and gather that number of objects into a pile. Then they can roll the die again to get a second number. Show them how to combine the two piles and count them all together.

15. Read about numbers

Books are a wonderful way to spark interest in numbers, and there are a lot of great choices!

Ten Black Dots, One Gorilla, A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars and The Boy Who Loved Math are good ones to start with.

Whatever math activities you choose to do with your child, don't forget to bring in real-life math experiences too! Whether it's paying with real paper money or building something together out of wood, there are tons of opportunities for kids to participate in real-world activities that include math. Show them that we use numbers every day!

Plan Toys fraction blocks

Plan Toys fraction blocks

Math is play! This super simple set of 15 blocks is designed to introduce geometry, shapes and fractions while your child matches and builds.

$15

Farm Steady everything bagel kit

Farm Steady everything bagel kit

Mix, measure and roll! This bagel and cream cheese making kit is a fun and delicious way to teach a variety of lessons and skills.

$30

Dough Parlour playdough

Dough Parlour pack of 6

Delightfully squishy and deliciously scented, Dough Parlour play dough is an addicting sensory experience. Handmade in Canada from 100% non-toxic ingredients, each pot features a different color and a nostalgic food-based scent that's ready for hours of hands-on play.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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