Go on a nature hunt. Give your child a bag to fill with all the treasures he finds. When you return home, ask your child to sort his treasures — stones in one pile, leaves in another, shells in another, and so on. “What did you find the most of?” "What's the biggest thing you found?" "What's the smallest?"
Help your child connect with nature by planting a "family tree." Take a family photo in front of it once a year to show how both your tree and your family are growing.
Make up a math story problem for your child to solve. For example: "Once upon a time there were five jugglers. Each juggler was juggling three balls. How many balls were there?" Drawing a picture might help her solve the problem. Now ask your child to make up a story problem for you to solve.
Toss a black and white soccer ball back and forth with your child. Before each toss, the person catching the ball should predict whether his or her right thumb will land on black. Keep track of how often it does, and compare your results at the end of the game. This is a playful way to introduce your child to the concept of probability.
Did you know that a soccer ball is covered with pentagons and hexagons? Talk with your child about these shapes and how many sides each has. Then ask her to point them out on the soccer ball. What color are they? Are there more pentagons or hexagons?
Write the numbers 1 - 10 on index cards (one number per card). On another ten index cards write an action such as "jump," "hop," "skip," etc. Take turns drawing an action card and a number card and doing what they say. For example, if you draw "jump" and the number "8" you have to jump 8 times.
Using just the number cards from yesterday's activity, ask your child to draw a card and then find that many of a particular object in the house (e.g., chairs, pictures, stuffed animals, etc.).
Read Apples and Pumpkins, by Anne Rockwell and then make apple pumpkin muffins.
Get five apples of different sizes. Ask your child to put them in order from smallest to biggest.
Read Ten Red Apples, by Pat Hutchins. Then ask your child to look around the house and find 10 red things.
Ask your child to pick a number between 1 and 10, but not to tell you what it is. Then try to guess his secret number by asking questions such as, "Is it bigger than 3?" or "Is it smaller than 8?". Now think of a secret number for your child to guess.
Cut an apple in half and then into quarters. As you do so, talk with your child about the parts, using terms such as "half" and "quarter". Show your child that two quarters make a half and that two halves make a whole.
Take a walk outside with your child, and gather up colorful leaves of different shapes and sizes. If you live in an area where leaves don’t change color then just collect different varieties and sizes of leaves. Ask your child to sort the leaves by size, shape, and color.
Start a pattern with the leaves and ask your child to finish the pattern (e.g., red leaf – yellow leaf – red leaf – yellow leaf – what comes next?).
Watch this video of The Count and his friend Ingrid counting up to 20 in Spanish, and then help your child do the same.
Do you know what a Googol is? It is a very big number. Find out just how big by looking it up in the dictionary. Then help your child write it.
With a black marker, draw a line down the center of several leaves, dividing them into halves. Ask your child to look at the two halves of each leaf and tell you if they are exactly the same. If they are, then the leaf is symmetrical
Choose three different objects from around the house (e.g., an apple, a mug and a small box). Show the objects to your child. Ask, “How are they alike?” and “How are they different?” Now ask your child to close her eyes while you cover one of the objects with a cloth. “Can you figure out which one is hidden?”
Choose three related objects. For example, a slipper, a sock and a shoe (all worn on the feet); or a spatula, a measuring cup, and a spoon (things found in the kitchen). Put them on a table, cover one, and ask your child, “What’s missing?”
Read the Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons, and then invite your child to help you make a batch of yummy Mini Pumpkin Muffins. Helping you count out and measure ingredients gives your child practical experience with math.
Give your child a variety of non-breakable containers to play with at the kitchen sink or in the bathtub. Encourage him to fill and empty the containers, and pour water from one into another. Ask questions such as: “Which container do you think will hold the most water? The least water?” Fill them up and find out.
At snack time, put together a few options for your child. Before you eat, have your child sort items by size, color, and shape. Have your child provide descriptive words like “bigger” or “round” and help her sort her snacks!
Before putting dirty clothes into the washing machine, ask your child to sort the clothes into two piles — dark colors and light colors.
When clothes come out of the dryer, ask your child to find all the matching socks or put the clothes in piles by type (e.g., shirts, pants, towels, etc.)
Did you know playing “Pat-a-Cake” with your baby or toddler is laying the foundation for math? Yes! The rhythmic actions of singing while moving your child’s body gives direct experience with sequences and patterns.
Measure a room by counting the number of steps it takes you to walk across it. Ask your child to do the same. Now ask, "Why do you think we came up with different numbers?" (Your child's steps are smaller than yours, so there will be more of them.)
Get two or three pumpkins of different sizes. Ask your child to compare the pumpkins and tell you which is bigger or smaller, taller or shorter, and thinner or wider.
Ask your child to guess which pumpkin is heaviest and then put them on a bathroom scale to find out. Ask older children to estimate a weight before you weigh them.
If you are making a jack-o’-lantern, invite your child to suggest geometric shapes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Use a black marker to draw the shapes where they should go. You can either cut the shapes out or ask your child to color them in. Add fun and wacky details, like string for hair, costume jewelry, glitter, etc.
Roasted pumpkin seeds make a nutritious snack. Scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin and spread them onto a cookie sheet. Ask your child to estimate how many there are. One strategy is mentally divide the cookie sheet into four quarters. Count the seeds in one quarter and then add that number together four times.
If your child goes trick-or-treating, ask her to sort her goodies by type. Then ask her to sort them another way (e.g., by color or size). Reinforce good nutrition by saying "Can you sort your goodies by healthy snacks (e.g., raisins) and not-so-healthy snacks (e.g., chocolate bars)?"