Owen County Extension Service News: Indoor activities to teach math skills

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By Judy Hetterman

During the cold winter months, it is harder to find activities to do with younger children. It seems all too easy to allow a child to spend more time on the computer or in front of the television. However, these activities can get in the way of time together as a family and can even impede development of important kindergarten readiness skills. What are some ideas that families can do instead to help young children learn math skills?
1. Bake with your kids. Stirring batter, cracking eggs, and measuring liquids are all great ways for kids to have fun while learning math skills. Cooking with your children can be fun and affordable. It also teachers your children valuable skills they will need in their future.
2. Have family game nights. Board games are a great way to bring the family together for lots of fun and laughs. They can also teach children important math skills. There are many choices and lots of games that are very affordable. Let each person in the family pick out a favorite game that you can all play together.
3. Sorting. Learning how to sort out and categorize things is an important math skill. Let your child help you sort the laundry or the silverware. Challenge your child to sort their shirts by stripes, prints, or solids.
4. Analyzing. Analyzing skills help children deal with mathematical concepts. Invite your child to a Tupperware challenge. Let your child take everything out of your Tupperware and plastic tub cabinet or drawer. Challenge your child to find as many ways as possible to stack them by size inside one another. See if your child can find different ways to rearrange them in the cupboard. Ask questions as you do the activity such as, why some of the tubs will not fit or what other things in the house can stack inside each other.
5. Classifying. A third skill that is important to help children develop math skills is classifying. Your canned good cupboard or pantry is a wonderful classroom during the cold winter months. Let your child get the canned goods out and classify them in some way. Let your child decide how to group them – by color, by picture, and so on. When your child is done, guess how she grouped them.
6. Comparing. Learning how to compare things teaches children math concepts such as greater than, lesser than, geometry basics and much more. Using those same canned goods, ask your child to compare weight or sizes of the cans. Compare the shapes or colors. Compare and contrast the content of different cans together.
The next time you find yourself trying to think of fun indoor activities to do with your young children when it is cold outside, just think about how many ways that play can teach about mathematics. There are endless possibilities right inside your own home.