8 Preschool Math Ideas — using toy vehicles!

Our beautiful spring weather has taken a turn for the worse, so we’re spending some time indoors.  Today was the perfect time to round up some preschool math ideas using toy vehicles.

These toy car activities are great for teaching basic math skills to preschoolers.  My boys loved the ramp!

 1 – Ordinal Numbers – Car Race

preschool math with toy vehicles (1)056

First we turned a wooden puzzle upside down and rested it on a plastic storage bin.  My boys had fun letting the cars go.  Then my Four assigned each car to its proper finishing place.  I showed him the trophies, helped him identify “1st, 2nd, 3rd” and also showed him the words for each ordinal number.  After we finished racing I had him practice assigning a car to the correct trophy by telling him what place it had finished.

trophy snip

Want a copy of our first, second, and third place trophies?  Get them here: Trophies (first, second, third)

2 – Division – Share the Vehicles

preschool math with toy vehicles (3)057

I gave my Four a set of four cars and asked how we could share them equally. Right away, he knew that we’d both get two.  As I made the pile larger he had to pass them out one by one to get equal groups.  After he was done I would ask, “So if we have 8 and divide it equally between two people, how many do each of us get?”  This is a very  basic introduction to division.

3 – Sorting – Guess the Sorting Rule

preschool math with toy vehicles (7)061

I divided the vehicles into groups, and my Four and Six guessed my sorting rule.  Here are just a handful of ways to sort toy vehicles:

a) by color
b) by size
c) by type of vehicle (cars and trucks)
c) by where the vehicles are used (land, sea, air)
d) by purpose (above we sorted into emergency vehicles and personal vehicles)

4 – Counting, Number Recognition, Subitizing – Match Numbered Cars to the Parking Lot Spaces

These toy car activities are great for teaching basic math skills to preschoolers.  My boys loved the ramp!

I made a parking lot with ten spaces. In each space, I put a set of stars.  Then I put numbered stickers on toy vehicles and had my Two match the vehicles to their matching parking spot. (By the way, subitizing is just a fancy way of saying “look at a group of objects and know how many there are without counting each individual item.”)  He did great up until number 5.  Since the groups were getting too big for him to count accurately,  my Four took over.

car parking lot stars

If you’d like a copy of our parking lot, you can get it here: Parking Lot #1-10 (with stars)

5 – Patterns – Car Patterns

preschool math with toy vehicles (6)

This is such an easy activity to throw in when you’re on the floor playing with your kids.  You make the pattern and have your child continue it, or let him create the pattern and let you name it.  Here are just a few ideas:

1) color pattern (red, blue, green, red, blue green…)
2) type of vehicle pattern (fire truck, train, fire truck, train…)
3) size pattern  (big, small, big,  small…)

6 – Colors – Match Cars to Construction Paper

These toy car activities are great for teaching basic math skills to preschoolers.  My boys loved the ramp!

This was too easy for my Two, but it will be perfect for my toddler in about six months. I’ve also seen bloggers create colorful garages out of boxes or canisters for their children to park the cars in.

7 – Addition – Roll Dice & Park Cars 

These toy car activities are great for teaching basic math skills to preschoolers.  My boys loved the ramp!

My Four gathered a set of blue cars, and my Six grabbed some red ones.  They took turns rolling dice and determining the sum.  Then they parked their cars to the number that matched their sum (if the spot was vacant).  If we’d played all the way to the end, we’d have had to switch to one die if we wanted to get the “1” covered! At the end of the game blue cars dominated the parking lot, so my Two had won.  This is an idea from Discover Play Learn.

parking lot

Make your own numbered parking lot or get a copy of ours here: parking lot #1-12.

8 – Graphing – Transportation Graph

These toy car activities are great for teaching basic math skills to preschoolers.  My boys loved the ramp!

I’ve featured this idea before, in my Letter T Math.  The idea is from I Can Teach My Child.  You can read more about the idea here.

Preschool Math Ideas with Toy Vehicles - the measured mom055

Browse my giant collection of math ideas by clicking on the image below!

Math Activities for Kids - the measured mom

© 2013 – 2014, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    My little guy is car obsessed! We have done a few of these – like sorting with colors, but you have a lot of great ideas we haven’t tried! Got to pin this one!

    Stopping in from Sugar Aunts.

    • annageig says

      Hi Lisa! So good to hear from you :) Don’t forgot to check out my printables page for the Dump Truck Counting Mat and truck pattern cards. Next week I’ll have transportation count & clip cards and some basic transportation worksheets too. How are those boys doing??

  2. Savannah says

    Awesome idea…love it. Thanks for sharing at HammockTracks and I look forward to your post next week. -Savannah

  3. says

    These are great ideas! So simple and don’t require too many expensive materials or timely prep….would love for you to link this up at Mom’s Library! Hope I see you there!

  4. says

    Visiting you from “It’s playtime”. We are doing transportation this week as well!!
    We did the numbered car=parking lot, but we have to do the roll the dice one!!

    Just pinned it to my Transportation theme board!

    • annageig says

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Car math is fun – nice to sneak learning in when they least expect it :)

    • annageig says

      Thanks so much for the feature, Jaime! That’s a great collection of ideas — nice for those of with a bunch of boys :)

  5. Sheri says

    Thanks for all the great ideas. My 3 and 4 year old love these activities. Some of them I’ve tried already, but its wonderful to see some new ideas to give me inspiration.

  6. WeiPing says

    Hi, my 3.5yo is having trouble counting to 100 after mastering 1-20. she gets stuck at all the 9’s (29, 39, 49, 59,….) as she does not know what comes after, even after playing many games and practicing out loud with me. any ideas on how I can be more creative with this? I tried writing numbers on our side walk for her to jump to the next number but she got bored very quickly.

    • Anna Geiger says

      Thanks so much for stopping by! In my experience, what your 3.5 year old is doing is completely normal for her age – and perhaps even higher than what most 3.5 year olds are doing. If she is getting bored with fun ways to teach the numbers, she is probably not developmentally ready to learn them. One thing I did with my daughter which helped it all click (although I’m sure she was 4 at the time), was to pull out my pocket chart from my teaching days. It had a pocket for each number, 1-100. I took some out and had her help me put them back and name them. I have seen people do something similar by writing numbers on blocks that fasten together (unifix cubes) as well. You can check out my Pinterest board http://pinterest.com/themeasuredmom/math-ideas-for-preschool/ for more ideas – but overall I’d say take a break from this concept for a month or two and try again. That’s always been my strategy when something isn’t clicking – particularly when my kids are young and it’s not a skill that they need to know right now.

      • WeiPing says

        Appreciate your advise, thanks for taking the time to reply. Yea I will probably take some time off from counting for now, but funny thing is, she can and enjoys simple addition (for numbers below 10 as I do not want to scare her). As for your pocket chart activity, I got her a Montessori 100 board but…not interested as well, haha!! (pocket charts are expensive here in Malaysia).
        Thanks again! Btw, I love your blog, keep up the work. God bless you with more ideas to share!

    • Anna Geiger says

      Absolutely, Elicia – I just ask that you link back to my blog so that readers need to visit The Measured Mom to learn more about it :)

  7. Emily says

    I was hoping to find ways to work on number recognition with my three year old. Anything after 6 seems to be a challenge. Glad I came across this post!

  8. Chris says

    I haven’t yet tried this in my room, but plan to, and thought of the idea so will pass it along: First i read the book Five Creatures to the class. Next, I will pass out ziploc bags containing probably 16 manipulatives–those pattern tiles that have, like, green triangles, yellow hexagons, etc. as well as some foam shapes–red squares, blue circles, etc. Each bag will have 2-3 colors of objects, and 3-4 shapes, enough to total 16 items. The kids will have to tell me ways to sort them–by type of material (foam or plastic), color, shape, whether they can stand up alone (the foam pieces surely can), and maybe sort by whether they have straight or curved edges, and sort by whether really thin or else fatter (foam is fatter).

    My kids are all almost 4 or are over 4, so hopefully this won’t be too hard for them.


    • Anna Geiger says

      Your sorting idea sounds wonderful, Chris! I have found that preschoolers need some guidance at first when learning to use sorting rules, but after a few examples they catch on.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *