1, 2, SMASH! Sensory Counting Games for Kids Blend Fun and Education

Photo by tsingha25 / iStock
Photo by tsingha25 / iStock

By Rachel Ward

“1…2…3…mmm…” Your child pauses, brow furrowed while their hand hovers over a fourth cereal piece. Then, with a delighted grin, they pick it up and chow down with a proud shout of, “4!”

Have you ever wondered why kids—especially the under-five set—tend to touch everything they possibly can, from boxes at the grocery store to ants on the sidewalk? Our experts have the answer:

“The early years are when children are completing the foundation they’ll need to learn more advanced concepts—and since children are by nature sensory learners, they build that foundation by smelling, tasting, and touching items,” explains Sue-Ann Lively from KinderCare’s Education team.

And that’s exactly why we dive into the magic of math using sensory twists to keep it fun for our preschoolers, all while prepping them for kindergarten. That means no flashcards here! Take a look.

Hands-On Math Activities in Preschool Set Kids Up for Success in School

Play dough + 1 die + 1 toy hammer = a smashing good time! Kids rolls the die, count out the corresponding number of play dough balls, and whack ‘em with a hammer to build counting skills with a fun, tactile zing that makes learning a piece of cake (er, dough).

“Children need concrete, real-world examples to understand abstract concepts like numbers, meaning flashcards and memorizing a list of numbers tend not to work well for actual comprehension—and that’s why activities like this one are so valuable to the learning process,” explains Lively.

Most of our activities have a sensory component to help kids learn more complex concepts like letters and numbers, because we know how important it is nowadays for preschoolers to be ready for kindergarten (while still having a ton of fun).

But you can jump into the number fun, too! Try some of our hands-on, holiday-themed ideas to help your child build math skills right at home.

3 Holiday Sensory Math Activities for Preschoolers

1. Veggie sorting = learning game

If you’re like us, you’ve already scooped up seasonal root vegetables like beets, squash, carrots, etc. to add to your holiday feast (and if not, no worries—you still have plenty of time). As you get ready to prep your holiday vittles, have your child sort the veggies according to type or size to build math skills.

Photo by Gabriel (Gabi) Bucataru / Stocksy / 84200572
Photo by Gabriel (Gabi) Bucataru / Stocksy

2. Make a gingerbread house with colorful patterns

Turn this classic holiday experience into a fun patterning activity! Not only does constructing the house itself help with basic engineering know-how, decorating it with rows of gumdrops patterned by color helps build math skills, too.

3. Take advantage of snowy weather to make some snowballs

Every kid loves the chilly thrill of a snowball fight! But before you get into the thick of it, spend some time together making snowballs and turn it into a counting game. Challenge your child to make a certain number of snowballs—and then take a few away and ask them to tell you how many they have left. No snow outside? You can replicate the activity indoors with cotton balls.

Keep the learning and fun going by checking out our top ten counting games!

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