Kitchen Math For Preschoolers

by Jean Warren

Turn kitchen time into learning time for your preschooler. Opportunities abound at home using “real” objects to teach beginning math. When learning begins with real objects and experiences, children use all of their senses – thus ensuring the lessons learned are well imprinted on the brain. Below are some beginning math activities that your child will love.


Set your child down at the kitchen table with a small muffin tin (six cup) and have her sort a pile of small items into the six cups. Your pile should contain four or six different items, such as; 4 pennies, 4 buttons, 4 nuts, 4 bottle caps, 4 paper clips, 4 rubber bands, 4 bread holders.

To help your child with counting, you can place muffin liners in the muffin tin and write a numeral from l-6 on the bottom of each liner. Then give your child a pile of nuts or raisins and have her place items I each cup to correspond with the numeral written on the bottom of each cup.


Having children learn to estimate can be a fun before dinner activity. Set out 2-3 baggies filled with small amounts of food items, such as; 8 baby carrots, 12 grapes, or 10 fish crackers. Before eating their snack, have your child try to guess or estimate how many items are in their baggie. Next, have them empty out their bag and count their snacks.

If your child is willing, you could even have him recount each time he eats one of the snacks and say, “I had _____ crackers, I ate one, now I have_____crackers”.


Give your child a set of measuring cups. Have her line them up on the table by order of their size, biggest to smallest. Next, ask her to place something in the smallest cup (such as a raisin). Continue as long as interest lasts. You could continue with, asking her to place 5 raisins in the biggest cup, etc.


Lunch time or anytime you are preparing sandwiches is a great time to introduce your child to beginning shapes and even beginning fractions. Ask your child if he wants you to cut his sandwich into 2 rectangles, 2 triangles, or 4 squares. You may need to demonstrate these shapes a few times but sooner or later your child will become a whiz at recognizing these shapes. He will also be learning about the relationship between parts and wholes and about beginning fractions.


Look for opportunities while you are working in the kitchen to have your child help you. Especially look for number opportunities. Ask your child to help you get one pickle from the jar, six crackers from the package, two big carrots from the refrigerator. When children help at home, learning is natural and fun. Don’t be surprised that they do well when they start school because they will have had lots of previous experience with math concepts.


Look for simple opportunities for your child to learn one-to-one or two-to-one relationships, such as; We have four people and eight cookies. How many cookies will each person get?


Setting the table is a great opportunity for your child to practice counting. Set out a stack of napkins and have your child count out how many are needed to set the table. Do likewise with silverware and dishes.