I’ve always planned to introduce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts to my children as young as possible. I think it is never to early to get them interested in STEM and start teaching them that they have the ability to do STEM from a young age.
Recently we’ve been working on counting, addition and subtraction into my 2 year old son’s everyday life. He is doing math everyday and getting better and more confident in his abilities.
We could do these math activities without my son even realizing he’s doing math, but I think it’s important to explain to him when and how he’s using math. He learns that when we practice he gets better at it, and that math can be fun!
Below are three ways we do math with my son everyday.
1. Counting his toy animals
My son loves his animal figurines. He has collected over 30 animals in the past year. He gets them as gifts for holidays and earns them as a reward. He likes to play with his animals in the “jungle” and the “forest”. I love watching him use his imagination and see it grow while he plays.
His favorite thing to do with the animals is line them up in a row. He likes them to be lined up perfectly straight and if one animal falls down or isn’t perfectly lined up it can result in a toddler tantrum. It makes me laugh to see this side of his personality – I was surprised that these perfectionist and organizational tendencies show up so young.
Whenever my son has the animals all lined up in a row, my husband and I will ask him to count the animals. We taught him to point and touch to each animal as he counts to help him keep track of the animals and his counting. This simple exercise has helped him learn his numbers as his collection has grown from 1 to 35 and now he can easily count through the 30s by himself.
I think the key to making counting fun is finding something that your child loves and has a large collection of (this was the animals in our case). Then the child will be happy to sit down and count their collection. This was a great way for us to teach my son his numbers and how to count.
We’ve been doing this for the last year and have seen great improvement. You can’t expect your child to be able to count to 30 on day one and to not get distracted and lose count. It took months of patiently practicing with him, and showing him how to point/touch each animal as he counts to help him not skip any animals or numbers.
2. Adding with stickers for a reward
For our family, sometimes the best way to get our toddler to do what we want him to do is with bribery. In our case we’ve needed bribery to get my son to feed himself his meals in a timely manner. Until recently, I was having to spoon feed my 2 year old son while he watched videos on my phone to get him to eat his meals and it was taking almost an hour each meal! I finally had enough and decided to try some bribery to get him to start feeding himself.
My solution has been to give him a sticker whenever he feeds himself his whole meal within our allotted time frame. Once he collects 10 stickers he gets a reward (such as ice cream or a new animal for his collection). So far it has been working great!
I’m also including math in the sticker fun. When he earns a new sticker we first count his existing stickers. Then I give him his new sticker and tell him we’ve added one more sticker, so how many stickers do we have now? He will count the stickers and understand that adding one gives us a higher sticker count moving closer to the reward. I also ask him to tell me how many more stickers he needs before he has the 10 stickers needed for his reward.
I plan to do a similar sticker or stamp reward system when we start potty training this summer. My son really loves stamps so I think I will try stamps with the potty training but apply the same concept of collecting 10 to get a reward and making sure to ask him to count and understand that he’s adding and doing math every time he gets a new stamp.
3. Subtraction with vitamins before bed
We give my son two gummy multi-vitamins every night before bed. He always asks for five (those “vitamins” are like little candies, so he can’t get enough). My husband will put five of the gummy vitamins in his hand, then ask my son how many vitamins are in his hand. Once my son counts the vitamins we tell him he can take and eat two. My son quickly grabs and eats his two vitamins, then we ask him how many are left in my husband’s hand. He counts the remaining three vitamins and we remind him that he started with five vitamins, he ate two, and now there are three vitamins remaining. We then explain to him that he just did subtraction and he’s learning math. He always gets very excited and proud that he did math.
We do this same routine over and over, every single night. Repetition is very important with young kids and it has really helped him to understand the concept of taking something away is subtraction. Now that starting with five vitamins has become easier for my son, my husband has started to vary the starting amount to make the counting and subtraction new and challenging again for my son.
You probably are already doing similar activities at home with your kids everyday. By doing these activities you’re teaching your kids basic math fundamentals. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll notice we use math constantly everyday. If we make it intentional and explain the math we’re doing to our kids, they’ll realize that math is part of everyday life and that it becomes easier and you get better at it with practice. When you make math exciting and fun the children will have positive associations with math that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Do you already do these or similar activities with your kids? Did reading this post inspire you to be more purposeful in your everyday activities that include math?