The key message that we’d really like everyone to take on board is that you can involve a bit of mathematics in the normal course of your day and through the activities that you would normally do.

While you can also set aside time to do something a bit more special and creative with your child, it’s the integration of mathematics into your usual activities that gives your child the message that maths is normal, fun and a part of the everyday.

If you feel like spending a great afternoon at your local park with your kids, then there’s a perfect opportunity to explore and engage mathematically with the surroundings.

Counting While Playing

counting

The more opportunities you can find to teach your child to count in a natural way, the more confident they will be. There are so many opportunities while spending time at the park.

As your child climbs the ladder of the slide, count the rungs together. This might even be a little bit challenging as your child decides to count the rungs that their hands touch or that their feet touch. Ask your 4-6 year old if they can climb the ladder two rungs at a time to extend their counting in to patterning.

If you’re pushing your child on the swing, count each push as you go along. “One push, two pushes, three pushes…” Ask them how many more pushes they’d like or talk with them about how many pushes is the perfect amount.

As you enter the park and head towards your favourite place to sit or towards the playground, count with your child the number of steps. As you leave, you can ask your child to walk with big steps and count these. You can then have a discussion about the number of small steps compared to the number of large steps.

These are just a few of the most easily accessible examples and I’m sure you can think of many more!

Exploring and Sorting

Collecting

Kids naturally want to explore their surroundings and pick up a few treasures on the way. The park has many free treasures to collect!

You can ask your child to find 20 special leaves (or tree nuts, or sticks or whatever is of interest). For a toddler you might do this with them, helping them count up to 20.

Once collected you can sit down together and begin sorting and classifying. For a younger child you can sort by size or colour or similarity. For slightly older children you might sort by width and length. As you do this have a great discussion with your child about which object belongs where and why.

Another activity to do with the 20 leaves is to ask your 5 – 7 year old child to pair them up and line them up, much like lining children up in pairs on an excursion. You can then count the number of pairs together and ask if there are still 20 leaves all together. You might then ask if it’s possible to put the leaves in groups of three and your child will discover that two leaves will be left over. Ask them about groups of 4 and groups of 5. As they explore each of these they’re discovering important ideas about multiplication, division, multiplicative thinking and the many ways 20 leaves can be grouped. This is the beginning of teaching multiplication and is far more powerful than just learning the times tables by rote.

Estimating Distances and Heights

Footsteps

You can begin to explore measurement with your child from a young age using informal units. As you sit together you can ask your child which tree is closest and then ask your child how you can find out if they’re correct. You can then check by using steps to count out the distance.

Similarly you could point to two objects next to each other and ask which one is closer or further from you and again informally measure the distance.

You can measure the height of the play equipment informally also. Select a stick together and see how many sticks high the ladder of the slide is. How many sticks long is the slide?

Once again, you are only limited by your imagination. We’d love to hear about the mathematical adventures you’ve been on while spending an afternoon at the park. Please share your stories with us in the comments below.

Need more ideas? Why not attend one of our Mums N Bubs Activity Sessions or purchase access to the activities online?

Photo credit: Sam Howzit / Foter / CC BY