Both free play and guided play are important for all learning, including math. Let’s look at some tips to help you support children’s math learning through play.
It’s never too early to introduce math concepts to children! Look for opportunities to build math into play and everyday interactions. Introduce concepts like shape, size, patterns, or measurement during tummy time, as you pass out snacks, or clap to music.
Encourage active exploration and hands on activities. Children will learn more compared to activities where they only listen or repeat math concepts like two plus two equals four. And repeating is no fun! We want children to be doing something when they are learning. In that way the learning is more likely to stick!
Follow a child’s lead and interests. And provide space and time to explore. Then, play along using math language to talk about a child’s actions. For example, “how many more scoops of dirt will you need to fill the tin?” Ask open-ended questions or make suggestions related to math concepts.
Make routine, daily interactions more playful. Remember: if math-related activities are playful your child is more likely to learn things that will stick!
- Free play
- is spontaneous, unstructured play that is child-directed
- Guided play
- is like free play, in that it's focused on what the child is interested in. But unlike free play, an adult facilitates a playful learning experience