Plenty of mamas with elementary education degrees have created super posts and printables that can help you teach your preschoolers math, all based on sound educational theory (for example, see here and here, and even here).

As a mama with no formal training in this area, I’ve stumbled upon a different approach.

Many preschoolers love to “help” out around the house. Fortunately, I have no qualms about putting my kiddos to work on age-appropriate tasks.

Household chores teach your kids a lot. Have them help you clean the bathroom, they’re somewhat less inclined to trash it. Have them help you make dinner, they’re more likely to want to eat it. Have them help you select veggies at the farmer’s market, they’re more eager to try said veggies when the time comes.

Like most mamas, I’m a multitasker, so I figured, Why stop there? Why not teach the girls some math while I put them to work?

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Here are some of my favorite ways to

Sneak some math into your preschoolers

while they pitch in at home:

1. Fold some laundry

“Folding laundry” has been one of the girls’ favorite household activities since they were babies: I fold, they play in the mountains of clean, warm fabric.

By the time Kimmie was in preschool (age 2), I figured it was time she could “help” with the folding and sorting, too.

Since we cloth-diapered our kiddos, our laundry included dozens of cloth diapers each week. One of Kimmie’s first laundry jobs was folding the clean diapers in half. Which meant I had to teach her what “half” means, and that two halves make a whole.

Once the diapers were folded, I had Kimmie divide them into two equal piles – half for upstairs, half for downstairs – and tell me how many were in each pile. We’d double-check her counting by adding the numbers in the two piles together, and seeing if we ended up with the same number of diapers as she’d started with before making two piles.

When Essie gave up napping (meaning fewer upstairs diaper changes), the piles shifted. Kimmie now had to put two diapers in the downstairs pile for every one that went upstairs – all the while keeping track of how many were in each stack, and how many clean diapers we had at each changing table once she added her newly-folded ones to the pile.

Preschoolers helping with laundry often involves trying on as many pairs of undies as possible - all at once.

Preschoolers helping with laundry often involves trying on as many pairs of undies as possible – all at once.

When Kimmie had mastered folding diapers, I taught her to fold washcloths and dishtowels into quarters. In the process we learned that you can make a square washcloth into four equal smaller squares, and that adding these four quarter-washcloths together equals one large washcloth again.

While you may not cloth-diaper your offspring, I’m sure you have some other laundry item that’s equally prevalent in your mountains of laundry-to-fold. Maybe your kiddos can make piles of each other’s clean underpants and count out how many go into each child’s drawer, or figure out who has the most clean T-shirts in that week’s wash, or pairs of socks that need folding.

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2. Bake something together

Whether you follow an “English” or a metric cookbook, cooking is full of opportunities for preschoolers to learn and practice math skills. I find this especially true of baking, because there is so much measuring (and often, so much math) involved.

how to make 2.5 cupsTake a recipe that calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour, for example. Which is going to be easier for little hands? – filling and leveling a one-cup measure, or a half-cup measure?

Before having one of the girls measure out 2 1/2 cups of flour, we draw it out on a piece of paper, by making two circles and a half-circle. Then I draw a line through the two full circles to make each circle into two halves.

So, if we need 2 1/2 cups of flour, Kimmie, how many times will you have to fill that half-cup measure to get the amount that we need?