Have Babies & Toddlers? Want to Teach Your Preschooler Math Concepts? Not Enough Time? Try A “Learning Walk!”

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Are you feeling frustrated because you want to spend more time helping your preschooler count and recognize numbers? Is it impossible to find time to sit down with your preschooler because you also have a toddler or a baby? This is a common scenario for a home daycare provider.  My favourite way to juggle teaching preschoolers while I also care for a few toddlers and a baby is what I call a “Learning Walk.”

Instead of sitting down and focusing on learning concepts during circle time, I spend time with my preschoolers on the same concepts while we walk to the park.  Today I’ll give you three examples of math activities you can do on the move.  However, I also do learning walks for language, letter recognition, science, and social skills.

I like learning walks because the learning concepts are presented to my preschoolers in tiny chunks.  They are offered up as fun activities for no other reason than to enjoy the moment and explore the outdoors.  I’ll wonder out loud how many steps it might be to the next puddle?  Or, I’ll exclaim that I see THREE squirrels in the tree.  The math concepts are weaved into the fabric of our walk and our day.  To children, learning is simply exploring life.

Counting

Preschoolers need lots of repetition before they master counting to 10 and beyond. You can count the number of steps they take on a log or how many times they jump over it. You can count puddles, lamp posts or birds.  The possibilities for counting are endless while you are out walking in your neighbourhood.

At first, I’ll do most of the counting but eventually they will join in with me as they get the hang of it.  I keep it light hearted and fun.  A few minutes here and there while they are focused on the task will help cement a new concept into their understanding.  By the end of the walk, we will have had many opportunities to count to ten several times.

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One-to-One Correspondence

Preschoolers also need lots of opportunities to understand that the number ONE represents one object and the number TWO represents two objects.  Children may be able to count to ten but they haven’t yet made the correlation that a number word represents a group of objects.

I’ll point out the number of pinecones on the ground or ducks in the pond. Then I’ll ask them how many leaves they can find on the path or how many stones they have collected in their hands.  It only takes a few minutes to slip in some one-to-one correspondence practice and I do it so it fits naturally into the conversation.

For example, “Hey look everyone, there are two ducks in the water! Do you see the one with the green head and the second one with the brown head? One, …..two!” (Point with your hand to the first one then to the second one).  Then I would turn and ask the toddlers if they saw the ducks.

I’ll ask my preschoolers to point out the ducks and count them again so the toddlers (or baby) can see it too.  I make my older kids feel like the ‘experts’ and at the same time it gives them extra practice.  This also works to give the toddlers lots of attention and keeps them learning at their own pace.

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Number Identification

Preschoolers will also have to learn what a number two looks like so they can identify it as the symbol that represents two objects.  The first step is recognizing the number “2” and then eventually being able to form the number two with a pencil.

I’ll draw numbers in the dirt or in the sand at the park.  I have sidewalk chalk in the stroller and I’ll write numbers for the children to stomp on.  Dew on a bench is good for tracing numbers and so is a pile of birdseed.  I gave the kids sticks to trace the numbers 1 and 2 in a pile of birdseed one day while we were out feeding the chickadees.  Pinecones, sticks, leaves and rocks are also useful objects for forming numbers for the children to identify.

Children are inquisitive and they are intrigued if I start to gather a handful of stones and place them carefully on a bench.  They will ask me what I’m doing and I’ll tell them I’m making a number two because I want to surprise the next person who comes by.  Or I’ll tell them I’m making the number of how many birds I saw and they can guess the number when I’m finished.

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I invite you introduce a learning walk into your routine next week. It’s an easy, natural way to practice math concepts with your preschooler while your toddlers are busy.  A learning walk makes math active and enjoyable for everyone.

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