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By Liliam Perez, Doctor of Education

Helping Your Preschooler Learn Math and Language Skills, While Spending Time Together Before and After School

As parents and caregivers of our children, we play a very important role in their learning. For this reason, it is important to take advantage of every moment that we spend with them. Parents can engage their children in fun activities that use descriptive vocabulary and simple math concepts that we employ on a daily basis. One simple math concept that helps a child develop logical reasoning is the classification of objects.

Classifying involves comparing and sorting objects based on their shape, texture, and use, among other categories. Even if we do not realize it, we use mathematics daily when we compare and classify objects by separating and organizing utensils or clothing after washing and drying them.

Simple household chores offer many educational benefits for preschool-aged children. One activity that helps introduce the concept of classification as well as logical reasoning is sorting pairs of socks according to their color, texture and size. For example, after modeling how to find and sort matching pairs of socks, you can describe the characteristics that make them alike. Then ask your child if he or she wants to try to sort them. Guide your child with questions and comparisons so that he or she can make the best choice. If your child makes a mistake, guide him or her so that he or she can make the right choice. When your child sorts a pair correctly, celebrate your child’s achievement to encourage him or her to continue the activity.

It is important to ask the child which characteristics he or she used to classify the objects and how he or she decided which object belongs in which group. Describing the thought process reinforces the sorting criteria and the vocabulary that describes the objects and their actions. These actions support cognitive abilities in mathematics as well as the child’s early literacy skills.

Remember that as parents, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Some important details to keep in mind when thinking about activities to support our children’s learning are:

  • Choose objects that are not dangerous and that are appropriate for the age and ability of your child.
  • Describe the objects that you are classifying in detail, and sort them into different groups to model the activity for your child. This will help your child repeat the activity and to learn not only the process but also your expectations.
  • Celebrate your child’s achievements.
  • If the classification does not seem logical, show curiosity and ask, “Why did you decide to sort them this way?” Your child might not have a logical answer. If the response isn’t logical, continue guiding with questions and patience, or repeat the modeling process until you achieve the classification you expect.
  • If you and your child have fun while doing these activities, you’ll be helping your child learn math and literacy skills, while also helping your child enjoy learning and love school.
  • Using your creativity, which other kinds of sorting activities can you do with your child? Share your ideas with this community of parents who, like you, strive to give their children the best education possible. It is gratifying to collaborate with others and to learn from your own experiences.

Dr. Liliam Perez is an Early Childhood Practice Consultant for Lead Learn Excel, an Educational Leadership Fellowship offered by The Ounce of Prevention Fund. Prior to working for The Ounce, Liliam was an early childhood quality assessor for the state of Illinois at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership of National Louis University. Liliam is also a former Head Start Director, online professor for University of Cincinnati and Adjunct professor for Morton Community College in Illinois.