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Practical Maths Ideas for Preschool, Reception and Key Stage 1

It’s very easy to plonk your child in front of maths worksheets at home and, with a little encouragement and help dependent on age, they might get on with it. This can be useful for consolidation of topics and can definitely keep them busy for a while which is what we all need at this time. If you’re looking for more practical maths activities though then look no further!

Number Songs:

For the little ones number songs are great for learning those first numbers as well as understanding one more and one less.

  • Five Little Speckled Frogs
  • Ten Green Bottles
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I caught a Fish Alive
  • You can also find some catchy songs to help children learn the days of the week and the months of the year.
  • Timestables songs are a great way for learning those dreaded timestables.


Games are a great way of learning maths without them even realising they’re learning! It might be through ordering, counting, measuring or sorting, these are all key skills children must learn.

  • Bingo – ideal for recognising numbers. Start with numbers 1-10 and, to extend, go further! You could write the numbers on paper, ping pong balls, animals – anything your child is interested in! Create little cards for them to match their numbers.
  • Snakes and Ladders. An oldie but a goodie!
  • Cards – use a real pack of cards and play Snap! or Go Fish! These will all help with counting and identifying numbers.

The World Around Us:

Use the world around us; maths is everywhere!

  • Go on a shape walk; see if you child can find a triangle, circle, square or rectangle. Or are there trickier shapes they have noticed? At home, you might have examples of 3D shapes you can identify and discuss.
  • Encourage your children to help you if they need to accompany you to the supermarket (and you have the time!), looking at prices, counting out money, paying for things and, for the older children, working out the change they should receive.
  • Make repeated patterns out of pegs!

Outdoor Play:

Outdoor play lends itself wonderfully to maths.

  • Sand and water trays with containers, spoons and bowls etc allow children to begin to understand measurement, weight and volume just through play. Parents can help by asking questions and encouraging the use of language such as heavy, light, heavier, lighter, bigger, smaller etc.
  • Playdough is a great resource, not just for fine motor skills, but also for maths. Encourage mathematical language such as bigand smalllonger and shorter, and use counting as they make their creations.


Stories are a great way to practise counting and discussing size and/or position. Obviously, you have your specific counting books, but most books allow the chance to count and look at position of objects. 

Role Play:

Role play opportunities are fun and explore mathematical language and actions.

  • Try creating a little shop. Use real money (if possible) to pay and buy things. To extend older children, see if they can work out change from an amount.
  • Setting up a teddy bear’s picnic for their soft toys is a great opportunity for them to make sure they have enough plates, cups and napkins; they’ll be practising their counting and sharing without even realising.

Household Chores:

Believe it or not, household chores are a great way to practise maths!

  • Setting the table, sorting out washing, pairing socks together and emptying the dishwasher can all involve matching, sorting and problem solving.


  • Cooking is a daring task with a little one and can test your patience, but if you’re feeling brave, it’s a brilliant way of exploring measurement, time, counting, dividing and, let’s face it, a good lesson in cleaning up too!

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