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Add It Up

An easy way to introduce the concept of addition

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Teaching your child to count and sort is easier than you think.You can even practice at the playground!

Here’s an easy way to introduce your preschooler to addition: group like things together, then add them up. (Say, “Let's put all your red blocks in one pile and your blue ones in another. Now let’s count how many blocks there are all together.”) Be sure to use familiar objects and small numbers. Whenever possible, use objects as examples rather than numbers.

It’s easy to make groups when you’re out and about. Practice at the playground with these tips below.

At the Playground

From play structures to kids playing, there are many ways to use math words at the playground. Get started with these, then make up your own!

  • Count how many big-kid swings you see, then how many little-kid swings. Then add the two groups of swings together.
  • Count the number of kids on the slide. How many are on the swings? The climbing dome? How many children are at the playground all together?
  • If there are kids on the swings, say, “There are five swings all together. And there are three kids on the swings. How many swings don’t have kids on them?”
  • Count your steps as you walk from the bench to the swings. Then count your steps as you walk from the swings to the slide. Which path needed more steps? How many steps total did you take?
In the Park

Use number words as you walk in the park.

  • Have your child run to, touch, and count a few trees. Ask, “How many trees did you touch?” Have her run, touch, and count a few more. Then hold up your fingers to show each number. Help her add the numbers to find out how many trees she touched.
  • If you see people walking dogs, ask, “Are there more people or dogs?” After your child answers, ask, “How do you know?” “Yes, we can count to find out!
  • Find a picnic table and take a rest. Ask, “Are there more benches or tables? So there are fewer tables than benches. Fewer is the opposite of more.”
  • Say, “We each brought a water bottle, so we had four. I recycled mine. How many do we have now? How do you know?”
Extend the Addition Fun

On the way home, play a game. Say, “Let’s pretend I have all the stars, but I give you two. Now I have three stars and you have two stars. How many stars did I have before I gave you some?” (Fingers can be useful tools for this game.) Repeat using other objects and numbers.

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