Activities: ages 5 and under

There are chances to play with numbers in all sorts of everyday activities you do with your child. Pointing out the maths in what you’re doing can help your child feel positive about maths. It helps children understand that maths isn’t scary!

On this page we’ve listed just a few ideas to inspire you. Get creative! Talking about the shape and size of objects is a great place to start – e.g. big car, round ball, rectangular box. Try asking questions like “can you pass me the biggest box?” or “which is the smallest shoe?”. Practising how to count up to twenty and back to one is another activity you can do almost anywhere.

Around the house

• Cooking: measure ingredients and set the timer together.

• Find the same amount of different items to help your child understand what numbers mean. For example, find 3 spoons, 3 hats or 3 socks.

• Put items in order. You could do this by weight, height or size. Ask your child to help you organise items around the house.

• Solve problems. Work out “how many altogether” and “how many more”. Ask your child questions such as: “We have 3 red apples and 2 green apples, so how many apples do we have altogether?”

• Go on a shape hunt at the park or while you’re out and about. How many circles, squares, rectangles or triangles can your child find? Try getting your child to look for patterns.

• Look for numbers on doors, buses, cars, signs, at the shops – anywhere! Remember to talk about what the numbers mean when you see them.

• Count things. For example – how many lampposts are on our street? How many houses have a red door? How many dogs can you count in a day?

• Talk about time. How long does it take to walk to the shop, or to school?

Games & Play

Scroll through these cards for a few ideas to get you started...

Money activities

Show your child how to use money

You can do this with real money at the shops or pretend money at home. This is a great way to start doing some simple maths and to teach children about money.

At the shops

Ask your child to guess how much items will cost together. Give them small amounts of change and ask them what they think they can buy with it. Talk about the items you buy: which are more expensive and which are cheaper? Which are heavier, which are lighter?

Play shops

You could make pretend money or use Monopoly money for your play shop, and use items around the house as shop items. By ‘buying’ things with play money, your child begins to understand that different things cost different amounts of money.

Play the coin game

Trace around coins and then colour in the shapes. Ask your child to match the coin to the picture and talk about each coin’s name. (Note: toddlers may put coins in their mouth, so always keep an eye out!)

Help them to understand that it doesn't appear by magic at the cashpoint! Talk about how we get paid to do work or explain the other places that money comes from.

Get the Family Maths Toolkit

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Songs and books

Nursery rhymes, songs and books with numbers are a fun way to introduce children to how numbers look and sound. Here are some ideas.

Some useful links from sources around the web

Money Helper

The Money Helper website has tips for talking to young children about money, including activity ideas and links to videos.

CBeebies

Tips for parents from CBeebies about developing numeracy age 0-6, with fun activities to build into everyday life and play.

Guide from Education Scotland

Explore the learning opportunities in daily activities for 0-3 year olds with this guide from Education Scotland.

Guide for 3-6 year olds from Education Scotland

Explore the learning opportunities in daily activities for 3-6 year olds with this guide from Education Scotland.

Ten maths songs from Boogiemites

A downloadable pack of ten fun songs to support the development of maths skills such as counting, sequencing, shapes, positional language and patterns. Includes a parent booklet.

The Curious Dragons

A set of three sticker books full of fun, structured activities to develop children's number sense, counting, adding, subtracting, measuring and more. Based on the Singapore Maths approach.

Curious Dragons games

A fun and engaging set of games for children aged 3-5, based on the 'Singapore Maths' mastery method. The five games help to develop children's counting skills and maths vocabulary through play. Available to buy on Amazon.

My Granny Went to Market

A round-the-world counting book from Barefoot Books, by Stella Blackstone & Christopher Corr.

Eggs and Legs

A picture book that introduces counting in twos.

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs

A lively book with rhyming text, counting down from ten to one.

Mouse count

Ten little mice outwit a hungry snake in this counting book.

Skills we are practising

• Learning numbers
• Counting
• Number relationships