Many parents find supporting their children with mathematics difficult. Mathematics does not need to be about fractions and algebra, supporting children to learn the basic will give children a firm foundation on which to build more complex mathematical understanding.
Knowledge of shape and size help us to park the car of to pack a suitcase. Being able to recognise shape and size not only builds children’s mathematical knowledge but also supports their early literacy skills, as children need to be able to recognise the size and shape of letters.
Here are a few activities ideas to enjoy with your children from an early age
From six months of age
Young children explore with their hands and mouths, so any item given to a young child needs to be clean and safe.
Offer different sized spoons, these can be a mixed of plastic, wooden and metal (avoid teaspoons). Through handling and mouthing the spoons your child we experience not only the different size and weight of each object but the texture and ‘taste’ of each.
From 12 months of age
At this age young children love to stack and knock down items. This does not mean that expensive toys are needed; try biscuit, chocolate or cake tins. Show your child how to put one on top of the other, they will probably have more fun knocking them down to start with but in time they will start to stack the objects. As you build or knock the tower down, use the same phrases, such as ‘build it up’. ‘build a tower’, knock the tower down’, ‘knock it down’, ‘all fall down’, this will support their language development and will help them to connect the action with the words.
Does it fit?
From two years
Shape sorters are a classic toy for children of this age. However, there are alternatives you can also offer your child, look out for large tubes used for packaging or savoury snack tubes with the bottom cut out. Then allow your child to explore which objects will travel through the tunnel, such as cars and play blocks. Also, look at each other through the tube and allow your child to view their world in this ‘tunnel vision’.
Maths for tea
From two and a half years
At this age meal times can be difficult, so thinking up new and exciting ways of presenting food can help ease the tension. Try a square slice or a triangle of cheese, try cutting bread into a circle and adding carrot sticks as fingers, or cut a banana into different size portions. By using the appropriate wording, such as ‘the small one has gone’, or ‘you have square piece of cheese’, your child’s understanding of shape and size will be enhanced.
From three years
Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to help support children’s knowledge and understanding of shape and size. Start with quite simple inset puzzles, where only one shape will fit into the space. Once your child has mastered this type of puzzle, introduce jigsaws with between four and six pieces and show your child how to fit the pieces together and how to use the picture on the box as a guide. Once again, as your child becomes more confident introduce ones with more pieces.
Bits and bobs
From four years
Allow your child to be creative with their newly discovered mathematical knowledge, use different sized cardboard boxes, tubes, plastic bottles, sticks etc. and either build with them or offer parcel or masking tape and allow your child to join pieces together. Your child may wish to decorate this afterwards so have some suitable paints or colouring pens to hand. Believe it or not by placing, arranging and joining pieces your child is exploring the basic of engineering.