Long before typical children learn number concepts, they learn about ‘more’ and ‘less’, ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’, ‘lighter’ and ‘heavier’. They absorb these concepts from their environment. In our eagerness to teach math to our special children, we often forget to teach them pre-number concepts, and plunge into formal instruction using number cards. This can lead to 2 things – the child may not get numbers at all or the child may learn them in a rote fashion, with no real understanding of quantity, sequencing, and variations.
Here are some fun ways to teach your child pre-math concepts:
- Teach your child the concept of ‘bigger’ versus ‘smaller’. Take a tiny ball and show him how you can almost hide it in your fist. Now try doing this with a bigger ball. Then take a really big OT ball – you can give the ball a ‘hug’ and even lie on it – things you can’t do with the little ball.
- An extension of this is ‘more’ versus ‘less’ – you could place lots of play dough on one side and very little on the other, and ask your child which pile he would use to make pizza and which one to make a cookie.
- Play sand box games. Pretend as if you are trying to hide your feet in the sand using very little sand. You could say, “Oh no! My toes are still sticking out!” Ask for his help with this, by covering your feet with more and more sand until they are completely hidden.
- Have a large tub of water ready. Use different sized cups to pour water into the tub. With a smaller cup, you make a smaller splash. You could say, “I wonder which cup would make a big splash!” Kids will enjoy using the biggest cup to make the biggest splash.
- Have your child carry beanbags on his head and walk around the house. Start with one, then add on more. As you add each one, it gets harder to balance them on his head, as he walks.
- Push a laundry cart (together with your child) with very few clothes and see how fast you can go. Keep adding clothes and see how it slows you down.
- You can do the same activity with a wagon. Have a little friend sit in the wagon, and pull it around the yard. Have more kids sit on the wagon and the going gets slow – this is a fun game to try out at a gathering/play date.
- Lie in bed with your child and get under the blanket. Add a blanket and see how you start feeling warmer. Add another and see how you feel the weight – it now gets harder to move around. Make sure the blankets are not covering the child’s face, while playing this game.
- Make blueberry muffins on a Saturday morning. You can have your child measure out some of the ingredients – blueberries are especially fun to measure and pour.
- Once the muffins are in the oven, ask your child to describe how hungry he is. This is a difficult concept for many kids – you can act this out – be a ‘big hungry roaring lion’ to describe ‘very hungry’ or a’ tiny little squeaking mouse’ if you only want a nibble.
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