Early Math FUN! - Homeschooling Preschool/K Math - Making a Manipulatives Kit and More

Summary:  How to make a frugal math manipulatives kit and teach your kids early math concepts. #homeschoolpreschool #homeschoolkindergarten #early math

When you little, everything is math!  

Toys can be counted, towels sorted and put into sets.  Cookie making became a lesson in adding and subtracting, and beads got sorted into patterns as well, as making necklaces.... 

Also, buttons, shells, rocks, sorted by shape, color, size, what have you.  Even laundry could be sorted into sets.  All of this is good early math learning!

Our little ones learn best through play.  Basic math concepts, such as counting, sorting, bigger/smaller, same/different, adding, subtracting, etc can all be learned through play with manipulatives. 

  Making a Manipulatives Kit

Making a kit can be frugal and simple.  We just collected small items from around the house, or from our beach collections of rocks, etc. 

Manipulatives can really be any small object that you have around your house.  Buttons, shells, rocks, etc, can be sorted by shape, color, or size, and grouped into sets. This teaches early math concepts, as they are play!  

Even laundry could be sorted into sets, or by size, small, medium and large, such as with towels. 

We put our manipulatives into a shoe box, decorated it for fun, and got it out only for math play time. That made these little toys and objects special to her.

Some of the things that we included were:
1.  Rocks collected from the beach
2. Legos, or other small toys, to sort into sets, by color, size, or shape.
3.  Our collection of old buttons
4.  Pine cones

Stir the Wonder has a great post on Free and Affordable Math Manipulatives, full of more ideas for your kit.

Free & Affordable Math Manipulatives for Kids to use with hands-on learning activities!

Early Math Concepts

Get out your small toys and manipulatives and let your child explore with them.  While they are playing they can learn these math concepts:

1. Number Concepts: 

Using small objects. Ask your child: How many is four? How many is six? What if you take one away? Add two? Ask lots of questions for number concepts to develop. Later, your child can practice this in Numbers and Patterns-K.

2. Sets:

Math is all about sets. Children making their own sets will provide true learning! They can enjoy sorting their toys into sets. Sorting buttons by shape, then by size, etc. There are sorting activities everywhere! My daughter enjoyed sorting laundry into sets by grouping the like sized towels/washcloths, etc. Buttons can be sorted by size, color, or shape into sets, etc.

3. Addition and Subtraction: 

Cookies are the best for this! Or give your child a cookie sheet to work on with a limited number of toys. Ask your child to add the trucks to the cars or other simple problems.

4. Mathematical Patterns: 

As you know, math is made up of patterns. Crayons can be used to sort into patterns, such a finding all the orange and blue crayons and lining them up for a two part pattern (e.g., orange/blue, orange/blue,etc.) Making a bead necklace is fun too. Use a two part pattern, or a three part pattern.
As your young child gets better, add in a fourth part (e.g., one more color, blue/red/yellow/purple, repeat, etc.) Coloring patterns can be fun too. There are some patterns to color in Numbers and Patterns –K.

5. Equivalents: 

Making equivalents is fun! Rods can be used for this but you can make your own out of construction paper. First, cut out a strip of paper that is 10 inches long, say in blue. Then cut out cubes that are 1 inch in size, in yellow. Ask your child how many yellows equals a blue? He/she will find that 10 yellow cubes equals one blue (10 inch strip). And they will be doing equivalents!!Your child can discover these herself! Everything that your child discovers for herself will stick and prepare her for more advanced math later!

I have more about manipulatives kits here.  You can teach all of the early math concepts through manipulative play!  Here's more on that..

Early Math Resources

Numbers & Patterns, Grade K
When we needed more ideas for our math play, we turned to some workbooks by Evan-Moor or Teacher Created Materials

Both are frugal and done by well respected publishers.  Here are some of our favorites:

Numbers and Patterns - Kindergarten 

Lots of great ideas for math play here.  Click the title to read my review of this resource.

Shapes and Beginning Fractions 

This little resource gave us more ideas for our math play.  We usually used our manipulatives along with the book, so that my daughter could do the early math problems hands-on. 

We would take one page at a time, encouraging my daughter to solve the problems by using her manipulatives.  

Handling the manipulatives and working out the early math problems in the book, really makes early math come alive!  One evening we even made pizza night into a lesson on fractions.

Who gets to eat the last piece, 1/4th?

Evan-Moor Educational Publishers has lots more preschool, kindergarten  and early elementary workbooks here

Has your little one begun to explore early math yet? 

Whatever way that you decide to introduce math to your little ones, enjoy it.  I sure did.  

My little one is pictured below....
.....who was homeschooled through high school, and who is now a college grad.

For more encouragement for homeschooling your young ones, click here - 6 Tips to Homeschool your Preschool or Kindergarten Childfrom my friend, Terrie.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is a former O.T, preschool teacher, homeschooling mom and published author of children's stories.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool about the early yearshigh schoolcollegeand is the author of "Homeschooling High School with College in Mind".  She offers homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Tiffiny, for stopping by! It was fun to recall some of the things that we did for math, when my teen was a little one. We had a lot of fun, especially with making cookies for subtraction, lol!

  2. Math is one of my favorite subjects, ever! ;) I love to teach math, as well. So when I get my classroom of Algebra 1 students I find I am somewhat giddy. Something you said, " When you are 4 everything is math" is great, but I would enlarge it and say Math is in everything, and the beauty if it points to a Creator. The fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio show this truth. You can teach this even to a Pre K student because if you show them the petals on a flower, or a seashell, or the way leaves are arranged on a stem, you are showing them this complex, yet simply profound truth. :) Great ideas!

  3. Thanks, Dawn, for stopping by and for your beautifully worded comments! Math is so amazingly designed. Your students in Algebra ! are lucky to have you. I so enjoyed teaching math to preschool and K, showing them all about mathematical patterns, etc. Have a good weekend, Dawn!

  4. Fantastic ideas, and those linking cubes look oddly familiar!

    I'm big on math manipulatives here! But, I do like using brownies. Yum! For instance...

    Dad gave me 8 brownies. I am now eating 8 brownies. How many brownies do I have left? Great idea!

  5. Thanks, Lisa Nelson, of Squishable Baby, for stopping by! Yes, we liked using brownies for early math as well, especially for subtraction! Enjoy those great kids of yours, Lisa. I am blogging next to my college student today, while she catches us with her studies.....maybe we will need some study food, alas...where is that brownie recipe anyway?

  6. Wow, you have some wonderful ideas for hands on early learning math. I have always loved coming up with math activities in daily life. Thanks for joining in with Littles Learning Link Up. Glad to have you join in. Your post was one of 3 featured this week.
    I hope you will be able to stop by and share again this week.
    Have a great day!

  7. Thanks, kewkew of the LIttles Learning Link Up, for stopping by! I love doing math play with my little ones. Thanks for featuring me this week, on your great blog hop.

  8. There are some great ideas here! I agree, using life and nature and things around us can help little ones naturally learn. My three year old is obsessed with school, haha. She would do workbooks all day, even if she doesn't fully get them. I have to save some of these ideas for next year, thanks for sharing and linking up with Favorite things Friday! Hope to see you again this week!

  9. So fun to get your comments, Rebecca Spooner, and thanks for hosting the Favorite Things Friday blog hop! I plan of stopping by there again, soon,

  10. These are wonderful ideas! Hands on and fun are the best!

  11. Thanks, Erin Vincent! I loved doing early math with my daughter, and it also helped her to love math later on! Have a good week with your kiddos, and thanks for stopping by,

  12. What great ideas for teaching math! Using food is always a fun way of learning! Thank you for sharing at the #Made4Kids Link Party!

  13. I agree! Nothing like a subtraction lesson with brownies, lol. Hands-on means so much more to kids, then worksheets. Thanks for hosting the #Made4Kids Link party, Raining Little Superheroes Blog, and have a good Friday!

  14. I did a lot of early math with my daughter, honestly probably since she was 1. I found it really easy to teach just as you said as math is everywhere and useful in so much of what we do everyday. I kind of created a math monster tho, she's 5 now and relates everything somehow back to math. For example, she'll describe a person by what seat # they sat in, but will take a while to learn their names. It's person # this or person # that, not the person named... :P

    1. I love it, Melanie Thomas, how she notices the seat # of people!! That is a kid who loves numbers! You know she is going to go far. Thanks for sharing and have a great day,

  15. I bet your kids enjoyed all the food activities. What a fun way to learn math!

  16. My daughter is always looking for new ideas to teach her children. Sharing this with her, she is going to love it.

  17. Really loved these ideas. I spend a lot of time with my granddaughter and look forward to making math fun!

  18. These are really great! Love how it is incorporated into everyday items.


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