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Reading, Writing, and Math Skills for Preschoolers

How to make learning fun and help prepare your child for kindergarten.

Developing Basic Math Skills

To introduce your child to numbers and other math concepts, you can:

  • Count things out loud together. For instance, you can count how many carrots are on a plate or how many pennies you’re putting in a piggy bank. Juanita Copley, PhD, emeritus professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston, suggests walking along a path and counting each line in the sidewalk.
  • Ask your child to point out the numbers he sees around him -- for example, while you’re riding in the car or shopping at the supermarket.
  • Encourage your child to build towers with blocks. “Discuss what they’re building using words like under, over, between, inside, outside, up, and down,”  Copley says. This can help them learn about geometry.
  • Sort objects with your child by color, size, or shape. While you’re folding laundry, you can ask your child to sort the white socks into one pile and the blue socks into another pile. This teaches them to compare whether objects are the same or different.
  • Play a game with your child in which you try to toss six pom-poms into a hula hoop. Help him count how many of the pom-poms land inside the hoop and how many land outside. “Your child will see that numbers can be broken into parts and that leads to an understanding of basic addition,” Copley says. 
  • Teach your child about measuring with cups and tablespoons while you cook. Ask them to help you count how many cups of flour you’re adding to the cookie batter.

Learning at Their Own Pace

Keep in mind that children develop their math and language skills at different rates. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, talk with your pediatrician. 

It’s possible that a child who is struggling with language, for example, may have a hearing problem. Your pediatrician can evaluate whether your child may have physical or learning problem and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.

Encouraging Your Child’s Interests

If you find that your preschooler is drawn to one particular area, such as math, you can build on that by working on other skills at the same time.  “If they’re interested in numbers, read a book together that has numbers in it,” High says.

You can also spark their curiosity by choosing books with their favorite characters and activities that allow them to show their talents. “You want to find your child’s particular strengths and gifts and give them the opportunity to demonstrate them,” High says. “That will feed their self-esteem and help them work on areas that may not come as easily to them.”  

Reviewed on October 12, 2010

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