Sometimes the best way to sneak in a little learning is in unlikely places. How about teaching some math at the park or in your own backyard? Here are some outdoor math ideas for kids.
After a long cold winter, it finally feels like summer! My kids have been spending a lot of time outside, so I’ve put together this list of ways that we’ve done some math in the great outdoors.
Outdoor Math Ideas
Counting, Number Recognition, One-to-One Correspondence –
Count the pine cones
Under our pine trees we have thousands of tiny little pine cones. So following an idea from Peaceful Parenting, I drew boxes with the numbers 1-20 on the driveway. Then my just-turned Four worked at filling up the numbers through 10 and my Five counted pine cones for the larger numbers.
Sorting, Measurement – Sort sticks by size
Despite my nervousness around little boys and very long sticks, my Four and Five love to collect the big sticks they find in our yard and the little wooded area in the back. They rang the doorbell to show me all the sticks they had collected… and sorted by size. You could also have your child put the sticks in order from shortest to longest. You could do the same thing with leaves or wildflowers.
Measurement – Very Big & Very Small Hunt
Last spring, I printed this set of action cards and had my kids (ages 2,4, and 5 at the time) hunt for objects in the yard. They loved this very active scavenger hunt, and it was great for teaching my almost-three-year-old about size. I think we’ll have to pull it out again this year! Learn more and get your free printable action cards in this post.
Patterns – Create nature patterns
Addition, Subtraction, Number Recognition –
Water Balloon Math
This game can be modified in so many different ways. Prepare some water balloons and write either a single number or an addition or subtraction fact on each one. Then write matching numbers (or answers to the addition and subtraction problems) on your driveway or sidewalk. As your child chooses a balloon he throws it on the matching number or answer.
My kids loved learning and staying cool at the same time!
Fractions – Giant Fractions on the Driveway
Fractions can be a difficult concept, but this short lesson seemed to do the trick for my Five. I drew a large rectangle on the driveway. We talked about how this was one whole rectangle. Then I divided it in two equal parts (okay, they weren’t exactly equal, but the kids didn’t notice). I had my Five stand in one part to show “one half.” Then his sister stood in the other half to show “one half.” We talked about how two halves make a whole.
Then we worked together to show different fractions. In the above picture we made “3/4.”
The kids liked finding ways to make fractions all by themselves. Here my Seven is showing “4/4.” This also gave us the chance to talk about equivalent fractions. “4/4” is the same thing as “one whole.”
My Five likes to find any opportunity he can to demonstrate standing on his head. This worked well for “1/4.”
Number Recognition, Counting –
Mr. Wolf, What Time Is It?
This game was designed for my just-turned-Four, but it wouldn’t have been fun without his older siblings playing along. I had written the numbers 1-12 on pieces of construction paper. I was the Wolf and stood at the end of the yard. The kids stood facing me at the other end of the yard.
They called, “Mr. Wolf, what time is it?” Then I showed a number, and they took turns reading it. When I showed the “2,” for example, one of them would say “2:00!” Then they walked toward me that number of steps.
Periodically I would put down the pages and call out “Lunch time!” At that point the kids would try to reach the tree behind me or run back to start, where they were “safe.” I ran after them to try to catch them. If they reached the tree behind me safely, they could be the next Wolf.
Hint: wear shoes you can run in. This is excellent exercise for the mom.
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