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Art Activities for Preschoolers That Teach Math Concepts

by Ashley K. Alaimo

Preschoolers may know how to recite numbers one through 10, but to some kids, it is difficult to understand math much past counting their fingers and toes. Your little mathematician already has a natural curiosity for skills such as sorting, patterning, counting and symmetry, so introducing math in a fun and exciting way will help your child grasp these ideas faster than you can say “one, two, three!”

Sorting

Sorting objects into different groups teaches children about similarities and differences. Extend on their innate knack -- really, they like to do this, even if clean up time makes it seem like they don't -- for sorting by assembling solid colored objects (such as buttons, pieces of yarn, paper and dot stickers). Set out sheets of construction paper that correspond to the colors of the objects. Encourage your child to match the items to the correct color paper and create a design by using dots of glue and the objects.

Patterns

Understanding patterns is a fundamental math skill that helps launch a child to higher levels of mathematical ability. Give your preschooler a start by creating AB patterns, where one item is "A" and the other item is "B." Have your preschooler count out 10 clean wooden sticks and divide them into two piles. Pour two different colors of paint into bowls. Dip the wooden sticks in the paint, five with one color and five with the other. When the sticks are dry, encourage your preschooler to alternate the colors on a piece of paper and glue the sticks down to make an AB pattern. Depending on your child, you can eventually do this activity with three, four or five colors choices (ABC, ABCD and ABCDE patterning). The more, the merrier!

Counting and Numbers

You can never have too many books in your child’s library, and nothing is more precious than a handmade piece of literature. Using five sheets of paper, number them in big writing while counting out loud with your child. Have your preschooler draw shapes on the back of each sheet of paper that correspond to the number on the front. Then help your child put the pages in order and staple them together. Look through the book before bedtime each night and have your child count the shapes. Flip the page over so your child can see if he's gotten the right answer. This book supports number and shape recognition, while exercising drawing skills and nurturing creativity.

Symmetry

Butterflies are a perfect example to use when you want to introduce your preschooler to the concept of symmetry. Look through books for pictures of real-life butterflies and point out how their wings are identical in color and shape. Spread out several pieces of newspaper on a table -- you will be grateful for doing this! -- and have your child cut out a butterfly shape with kid-friendly scissors, or provide one that's pre-cut if scissors are too challenging. Using primary colored paint, let your child drip, splash and dot the colors onto the left side of the pattern (aren't you glad you put that paper down). Teach your preschooler how to fold the paper in half, and rub and pat the paper with their hands while counting to 10. Gently peel the paper open and reveal a beautiful butterfly that's the same on both sides -- Voila! Symmetry revealed.

About the Author

Ashley K. Alaimo is a writer, blogger and certified teacher in New York. She has a master's degree in elementary education and early childhood education from Medaille College, as well as a bachelor's degree in music and theater from Buffalo State College. Alaimo has also worked as an education specialist with ages birth to 12 years old, creating classroom and enrichment curriculum for various early childhood centers.

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