Toddlers, Pretend Play and Mathematical Concepts

by Early Math Counts

Have you ever considered the ways in which toddlers play and explore and how those very actions are often mathematical?

When a toddler takes two objects and brings them together to play, he is creating a relationship between them.  Sometimes, the two objects are not meant to go together; think – a small wooden block and a plastic bowl from the housekeeping area. They weren’t designed to go together, but through the imagination of the toddler, they become relational.  The child may put the block in the bowl and then take it out if the bowl. Sometimes, the two objects are meant to go together.  We call this “functional – relational:” think – a cup and a saucer.  The child puts the cup on the saucer and then takes it off again. In and out, on and off, together and apart are all concepts explored through this kind of play.   These spatial experiences are mathematical.

Now consider the toddler who repeats the same sequences in her play.  She takes the play phone off the shelf, lefts the receiver to her ear, pulls on the cord, and drags the phone around.  She then repeats this experience in the same order; listen, pull, and drag. This repetitive play reinforces sequencing concepts.

Both of the examples above are typical experiences many toddlers have in child care.  You can further support the play by providing language to the experiences.  Use math vocabulary with the children to reinforce spatial relationships and sequencing.


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