Give your kids a head start and introduce them to math concepts in fun and creative ways.
Math starts with observing and identifying attributes, such as color and shape, and then progresses to more abstract concepts, such as number representation and one-to-one correspondence. Here, a child associates the numeral 3 with 3 items and the number word T-H-R-E-E. Then there are mathematical thinking skills, such as identifying size and spatial relationships, logical thinking, sequencing, and categorizing by feature. All of this is, in addition to the thinking skills developed in infancy, are important to succeed at math in school. Math concepts taught in school include counting, math operations such as adding and subtracting, and concepts such as fractions.
To introduce mathematical concepts, start with sensory toys with many different attributes, especially colors and shapes, and opportunities for counting. Bring in puzzles and critical thinking toys that not only help develop basic problem solving skills, but also offer opportunities to practice identifying visual cues, create patterns, and learn sequencing and sorting. Learning to identify visual cues from puzzles and patterns is a basic skill for number recognition, sorting sequencing and categorizing. The ability to identify the features of an object and group, sort or sequence it based on those features is also an important math concept. Then, offer building toys, science kits, arts & crafts and other hands-on products that allow experimentation and application of these principles to create an end product.
Once a child starts school, more concepts are introduced. If some of those concepts are first fostered at home, kids will gain early familiarity and confidence. Games are also a great way to practice skills without being too computational. Look for games and fun toys that reinforce math facts, time-telling, measurement, logical thinking, and problem-solving.