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Child Initiated Math & Science Preschool Activities

by Erica Loop, studioD

If you think that workbook pages or watching you are the ways to help your preschooler to learn about math and science, think again. According to the child development pros at PBS Parents, preschool-aged kids use their own inquisitive nature as a prime means to make scientific discoveries. Before you tell your child what she is doing when it comes to math and science, let her initiate her own explorations and activities.


Giving your preschooler blocks to play with doesn't always have to mean that you are telling him what to do with these open-ended playthings. Encourage your little learner to initiate his own math-based explorations using basic building blocks. By giving him different colors, sizes or shapes of blocks he can work on math skills such as patterns, counting and categorizing. You may find that your child takes the blocks and sorts them into different piles based on a physical property. Ask him to explain how he is categorizing them, and then have him count each grouping. After he sections the blocks off, he may take them and make a pattern that uses alternating colors or shapes such as red block, green block, red block.

Nature Observations

Don't let your child pass the natural world by. Instead of rushing from place to place -- such as preschool to the car or home to the grocery store -- stop and let your child literally smell the roses. Taking the time to stay out in nature -- whether it is on a walk through the woods or spending the day at a local park -- can encourage child-initiated nature observations. Use these observations to create basic math and science lessons. For example, if your child notices that there are lots of orange flowers blooming in the park, ask her to count how many she sees. Follow this up with a science activity in which she can compare those flowers to other ones or look more closely at the different parts of plant. Give her names for what she sees -- such as stem, leaves, petals -- if she doesn't already know the vocabulary.

The Senses

Chances are that your child is already used to experiencing the world around him through a multi-sensory approach. While you might not want to encourage him to explore the local flora and fauna with his sense of taste, he can use all five senses at different times for math and science activities. Provide your child with a sensory box that you fill with differently textured objects -- such as a feathers or sandpaper -- along with noise makers and items that have scents. Allow your child to initiate his own activities, exploring the objects with his senses and making his own discoveries. If you want to add a layer of math to the science lesson, ask him to count how many of each type of sensory object he has. For example, he may have three smelly objects or two items that feel soft.


Mini kitchen activities provide a creative way to incorporate both math and science into your child's day. Although your child can't actually use a heating appliance -- such as the stove or the oven -- to cook, she can help you out by measuring and mixing. She can also observe how different food items change after cooking, refrigerating or freezing them. Instead of forcing her to cook with you, wait until she shows interest in something that you are already making. Additionally, you can take her shopping with you, and ask her to pick out her own foods to cook. For example, if she asks for gelatin as an after-dinner dessert, have her measure the tap water and pour it into the dry powder. As she helps you to stir the mixture, ask her to tell you what she sees happening and what she predicts will happen to the powder. Have her tell you if the mixture is a liquid or a solid after she is done mixing. Put the mix in the fridge and have her explain to you what she thinks happened when you take it out hours later.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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