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Outdoor Math for Young Kids

Mathematics is more than just a subject. It is all around and within us. Mathematics helps us understand the world around us and interpret facts about ourselves as in the image above. Despite all this, a lot of people have a certain discomfort with mathematics. The reasons are many and varied.

mazeWhy introduce Math from everyday life?

We use mathematics in a variety of ways, sometimes without even realizing it. We routinely, count, weigh, size, measure, sort, stack, bundle, increase, decrease and divide, without associating it with ‘difficult’ mathematics. A person who considers himself bad at mathematics might be routinely tweaking quantities effortlessly in a recipe, without comprehending that all the tweaking he does so easily is the mathematics of ratios and proportions!

Why introduce Math early?

This way it's woven into the lives of our kids, and they are not daunted by the introduction of new concepts. Kids get introduced to mathematics via songs, apps, picture books, math games, flash cards and a whole bunch of other fun ideas. In fact, it’s great for parents to talk math with kids, but parents might be hesitant doing this. An early introduction to math with help kids learn to love the subject, ensuring that they don’t develop an unhealthy fear of numbers from a young age.


lines in the woodsWhy the Outdoors?

We are part of nature and it's the best place to start our learning. When kids are young, math can be easily introduced in a natural way. The goal is not to create an army of mathematicians, but to ensure that kids understand that mathematics is a routine part of our lives, and not something to be afraid of. In the process, if they love it, wonderful, and if they master it, fantastic!


Kids love spending time outdoors. It’s a great place for parents to introduce mathematical ideas. Math can be brought into nature walks, gardening, picking fruit, gathering leaves or a whole bunch of other activities.


Here are some of my favorite math activities -


Walking in 5s

Make sure kids have small stones in one pocket. Ask them to count their steps. For every 5, ask them to put a stone into the other empty pocket. At the end of the walk, ask them to count in 5s to see how many steps they have taken on their entire trip. Younger ones could start with moving a stone from one pocket to the other at every step, then after every 2, and so on, before counting in 5s.


Garland of Leaf Pairs

This is a good activity for a place with lots of trees which shed their leaves. Carry a packet of thin twigs which can double up as pins. Get the kids to collect leaves of two different kinds. Now, help them stitch pairs of similar leaves in twos, with the twig pins(like you pin sheets of paper). Make sure the leaves overlap at the edges and then pin. Kids understand ‘pairs’ or ‘in twos’. Once all the leaf pairs are ready, get them to pin these pairs alternatively. Make it long enough to be a garland and pin the two ends together. Help them wear their garland of leaves.


Stick Geometry

Kids love collecting sticks. Ask them to gather about 20. Then ask them to lay out three so that a closed space is formed. Then ask them to use 4 to create another closed space. Yet another with 5 sticks and one last one with 6 sticks. Ask them to stand back and look at them. Let them play with making more closed spaces. They could try building a closed space on the side of another.


Weighing Fruit

This requires fruit to weigh, and a weighing scale. You could even make a weighing scale at home and then get the kids to play with it. If you are out of fruits, use nuts, things they play with, or even pebbles. My favorite is asking them if a pebble is heavier than a ball of cotton double the pebble’s size. Go on, try it.


Measuring Water

Beware, that this can get messy, and that is why this is best tried outdoors. Take a variety of containers in various shapes. Pour out water from one container to another. Before you do so, ask them to guess how many mouthfuls might fill a glass, or how many glasses can go into a bigger mug, and so on. Kids can get really inventive with this. (Make sure you use potable water, if they are using their mouth to measure)


As one spends time outdoors, more ideas can be explored. Which is your favorite idea?


Author Bio:

George Schalter loves being a dad. He and his wife share the joys and responsibilities of bringing up their two children. As believers of good all round education, they spend a lot of time playing with their children and spending time outdoors. As George is the writer in the family, he blogs at Educational Kids Games.