When my daughter was four years old, a relative was visiting from out of town. We were discussing where we should go out to eat. When we suggested an Indian restaurant, he asked what kind of dishes they had. My daughter responded without missing a beat, “They are round and white.”
Concrete thinking at its best.
Because of this concrete thinking, preschoolers need to see, touch, and move objects around to understand mathematical concepts. Math manipulatives are beneficial for all ages, but are especially important for preschool aged children.
Math Manipulatives and Activities for Preschoolers
There are many math manipulatives and activities that help build mathematical skills and mathematical thinking for preschoolers. The following is a list of our favorites. You don’t need every item on this list and many you can make yourself.
- Abacus (purchase one or make your own)
- Activities with linking cubes
- Art projects
- Attribute blocks
- Balance scale and weights
- Building blocks
- Body measurement ribbons
- Body movement patterns
- Box of real coins
- Chutes and Ladders
- Clay or Playdough
- Counters (beans, bears, erasers, links, linking cubes)
- Counting rope
- Felt shapes (you can cut your own)
- Guess Who
- Hi-Ho Cherry-O
- Jelly Beans from Muggins Math
- 8 Ways to Use Kinetic Sand for Math
- Lauri Fit-a-Space
- Lauri puzzles
- Lauri Shape and Color Sorter
- Lauri Deluxe Tall-Stacker Pegs & Pegboard Set
- LEGOs or Duplos
- Lincoln Logs
- Marble Run
- Match It
- Math games to play in the car
- Measuring tools—measuring cups, measuring spoons, funnel, eye droppers, turkey baster, ice cube trays, various containers, and sand/rice/water
- Number Balance
- Opposites word game—Say a word, ask your preschooler for the opposite word. For example, hot/cold, up/down.
- Pattern blocks
- Pick-up Sticks
- Pictorial geography
- Playing cards—regular playing cards or the Six Tens Cards
- Preschool Finger Plays and Rhymes
- Ruler, yard stick, measuring tape
- Rush Hour, Jr.
- Snack time math
- Sorting and classifying walk
- Spot It
- Things that are… game—Decide on a category or characteristic and name everything you can that matches. For example, things that are green would include grass, leaves, mold, a shirt, broccolli, etc.
- Things that don’t belong game—Name three items. Other players guess which one doesn’t belong. For example, if you name chair, couch, and ceiling, ceiling would not belong because you sit on a chair and couch.
- Tinker Toys
- Twenty Questions
Find more math manipulatives and game suggestions in the math manipulative post series.
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