Parents and caregivers! Did you know a lot of your children’s learning happens at home thanks to your help? Your little one might not be enrolled in school yet, but you don’t need to wait until then to start having fun together as they learn early math; and if they are, they might need to practice the concepts they learn in the classroom at home. But don’t worry — it’s easier than you think. To keep learning fun and lighthearted amid the shuffle of everyday life, you don’t have to have to plan much further than your daily task list. To help you out, we compiled a list of unexpected ways you can fold math into your daily activities, including laundry, lunchtime and cleaning.
1. Build Tall Piles of Dirty Laundry. Involve your kids in sorting out dirty laundry into light and dark piles before washing it. Make it a game by asking kids to compete and see who can sort the quickest. Bonus points for creating the biggest laundry pile! The winner gets to topple it! See how laundry can help kids learn about sorting and collecting.
2. Make Marie Kondo Proud. After the wash is done, race again! But this time, race to separate all the clothes by type: tops in one pile, socks and undies in another and bottoms in a separate one. Then, slow it down by teaching kids how to fold their clothes neatly — a skill that will definitely come in handy for them in the future!
3. Get Snacky. In need of a little nourishment? Take small snacks like apple slices, baby carrots and small crackers and arrange them to create fun food vistas, like this pastoral scene. Remember to count out each item of food as you place it. Get more ideas on how to add math to meals here. Feeling extra? Find out how to make a very special sandwich that kids can also use to play with shapes.
4. Set It Up. Before mealtimes at the table, ask your kids to help you set the table, counting out how many of each item they need depending on how many family members there are. You can say things like, "Just you, me and grandma are having lunch together today. How many plates will we need?" or "If daddy and your sister were having lunch with us, how many plates and cups would we need then?" If your little one is just learning to count, remember to correct them gently if they get the numbers wrong. They'll get it eventually!
5. Prep a Perfect Picnic. Besides being yummy, did you know sandwiches are great for kids to practice recognizing patterns? Before heading out, ask your child to help you prepare some sandwiches to take with you. As you prepare them together, show them the pattern of how the ingredients go: bread, mayo, cheese, ham and bread, over and over again! If you need something sweet for your picnic, you can practice pattern-making with some fruit kebabs as well!
6. Days of Our Lives. Have you ever realized that every day of our lives follows the same pattern? Sunrise turns to day, sunset turns to night, and it repeats. Help your kids notice the pattern by noticing these moments of each day as they happen in a week. Your kids can make small drawings of each moment every day on a sheet of paper — the pattern will eventually appear! Get more ideas on how to find patterns everywhere here.
7. Pizza Perfect. My old math professor was right: pizza is perfect. Why? Look at all those shapes! It's a giant, cheesy circle that's cut into triangles (sometimes squares, if you're feeding a large crowd) that are filled with circles of pepperoni, spheres of sausage, rectangles of ham and so much more! Help kids notice all those beautiful shapes and name them together as you take each delicious bite (though let's be honest, in a perfect world, triangular pizza slices are filled with triangles of pineapple and rectangles of ham). Get the lowdown on shapes here.
8. Show Off Your Haul. From round crackers to rectangular cereal boxes to spherical oranges, square slices of bread and triangular tortilla chips, the stuff we buy at the supermarket is all shapes! After you come home, ask kids to call 'em out when they see them as they help you put all your purchases away. Hint: have them trace the edges of the shapes of the items with their fingers like this mom does in this video about shapes. It will help them reinforce what the shape looks like.
9. Clean House. You may think this is a chore but hey, if math can make laundry fun, how can picking up our stuff not be? Help kids get familiar with location and position words that are key to success in math at school — words like above, next to, behind, etc. — by having them clean with purpose. Set up different baskets or hampers for their toys around the room and using location and position words, tell them to throw (or just place, for more delicate toys) the toys that belong in each one. For example, you can say, "Shoot this toy car to land in the basket that's behind the coffee table," "This stuffed bunny goes in the hamper next to your chair. Can you make it land there?" or "In which basket does this Lego go? Tell me using the words we just talked about." Find more ideas on what to say is this video about teaching spatial sense.
10. Dance Like Only Your Kids Are Watching. Ok, this one isn't really an everyday activity, but it should be! Using this spinner activity as a base, create your own funky dance by blasting your family's favorite tunes and doing the moves that land on the spinner together. You can also use the spinner to decide what moves you like best and eventually create a fun pattern of them.
No matter what, remember that you know more than you think and you are a great teacher to your little ones. A little math every day makes a difference!