11 Math and Language Activities to do at Home

11 Math and Language Activities to do at Home

Guidepost Montessori has developed a bank of Montessori-inspired activities to help parents meet their children’s developmental and educational needs while at home

Ashley Yates

Digital Marketing Manager

During the Covid-19 stay at home orders, many families with young children were looking for ways to keep their children actively engaged in meaningful activities beyond math worksheets or busy work. A child’s development did not stop during this period of time. So, Guidepost Montessori developed a bank of Montessori inspired activities to help parents continue to meet their children’s developmental and educational needs while at home.

Although things have opened up a bit, these 11 free math and language activities are timeless and can be done to stoke curiosity in kids anytime. Put away the kindergarten readiness worksheets, and try these hands-on, screen-free activities instead.

1. "Closest to" Card Game

Recommended Age: 4.5+

Level of Parent Involvement: Medium

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Deck of cards with only the number cards
  • Two players

Steps

  • Show the deck to your child, showing them how there are lots of cards, but all the numbers go only 1 through 10.
  • Practice getting familiar with the cards by flipping over one card at a time, and asking them what number it is.
  • Once your child is comfortable, deal each player 5 cards, but place them in a stack face down in front of each player, unseen.
  • Place the rest of the deck face down between you.
  • Flip over one card from the deck, placing it face up between you. For example, let’s say it’s 3.
  • Both players then flip a card from their personal stack and see who has the number closest to 3. That player “wins” the hand, and takes the cards to their side of the table.
  • Continue playing until each player has finished their stack. Shuffle the deck, and start over, continuing to play until your child loses interest.
  • Variation
  • Each player can have their personal stack of 5 cards face up, so they can choose which card to use to win the hand.

2. Bring Me Math

Recommended Age: 4+

Level of Parent Involvement: Medium 

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Post-it notes or small strips of paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Small tray or basket for carrying objects

Steps

  • Write down one number for your child on a post-it note (for example, 4).
  • Ask your child to go around the house and bring you that number of something. The child can bring you 4 of anything he chooses (pencils, forks, Lego pieces, chairs).
  • Continue writing down numbers for your child.

Variation

  • For a younger child, ask the child to bring you the quantity, without writing the number down.

3. Measurement

Recommended Age: 4+ 

Level of Parent Involvement: Low 

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 15 - 20 minutes

Materials

  • Measuring tape
  • Child’s notebook
  • Pencil

Steps

  • Demonstrate how to measure the child’s shoe: turn shoe over, show how to count from the beginning of the measuring tape from 1 to the end of the shoe.
  • Ask the child to measure things around the house, and write down how long they are

Variation

  • Create a list of items for the child to measure (chair, table-top, counter, sofa, your sister, your pants, your toes)

4. Roll and Cross Dice Game

Recommended Age: 4+

Level of Parent Involvement: Low, once modeled

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes

Materials

  • A Dice
  • A paper and pencil
  • A marker

Steps

  • Write numbers 1 through 6 on a piece of paper, in large print.
  • Show your child a dice, and show them how it has dots on each side.
  • Tell them that we can count the dots and it will tell us a number.
  • Practice counting the dots and saying the number for each side of the dice.
  • Show them a paper with the numbers 1 through 6 written on it, in large print.
  • Show the child to roll the dice, count and say the number, and cross that number off on the list.
  • Invite them to continue rolling the dice until all the numbers on the paper are crossed off.
  • Create a small stack of papers, so that the child can repeat this activity.

Variation

  • For an older child, use two dice to make larger numbers.

5. Makeshift Moveable Alphabet

Recommended Age: 4 +

Level of Parent Involvement: Low (after prep) 

Prep Time: 10 - 15 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Clothespins
  • Marker
  • Basket or another place to hang the clothespins

Steps

  • The adult can write a lowercase letter (either print or cursive) on the flat side of a clothespin. Write one letter per clothespin.
  • Choose only the letters that your child knows. You’ll want several of each letter.
  • Show the child how they can create words using the clothespins, for example, if you have clothespins with a “c”, “a”, “t”, the child can put them together to spell “cat.”


6. Alphabet Scavenger Hunt

Recommended Age: 3.5 +; depending on child’s ability to identify sounds

Level of Parent Involvement: Low

Prep Time: 5 minutes Activity Time: 15 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • A large sheet of paper with the alphabet written on it, with significant space between the letters. Consider taping 4 pieces of computer paper together. Use lower case cursive letters or whatever your child is most familiar with.
  • Alternate: Write only the letters that your child knows.

Steps

  • Remember to use the sound of the letter, not the name. Instead of “bee” for the letter “b”, we would say, “buh.”
  • Show her the paper with the alphabet.
  • Tell the child, “I’m going to find something that starts with the sound “a” (“ah”).” Walk around the room, searching. Come back with (for example) an apple. Place the apple on top of the letter “a”.
  • Tell the child she can now have a turn to complete as many of the letters as she can, placing the objects on top of the corresponding letter.
  • When the game is done, name all the objects and have the child return them to their correct places.


7. Interview a Friend or Family Member

Recommended Age: 5+

Level of Parent Involvement: Medium

Prep Time: 10 minutes Activity Time: 20 - 30 minutes

Materials

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Any adult

Steps

  • Explain to your child what an interview means: to ask someone questions to learn more about them! Often, this includes writing an article (or a story) about what you learned.
  • Together with your child, decide on a friend or family member to interview.
  • Help your child think of a few questions they could ask a friend or family member. Invite your child to write down the questions, or write the questions for them.
  • We recommend practicing with your child how to introduce the activity to the other person, and how to ask the questions.
  • Once you're ready, reach out to your friend or family member.
  • Invite your child to interview their chosen friend or family member.
  • After the conversation, invite your child to write down the things they learned about the other person. Tell them they are writing an article, just like in a newspaper or magazine!

Variations

  • A younger child can still conduct the interview, and an adult can help them write the article afterward.

8. Read to a Younger Child, Pet, or Toy

Recommended Age: 4+ 

Level of Parent Involvement: Low

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Book at your child’s reading level
  • Younger child, pet, or toy

Steps

  • With your child, choose a cozy spot to settle down with a younger child, pet, or toy.
  • Choose a favorite book for your child to read aloud.
  • Sometimes an adult presence can be intimidating, and the purpose of this activity is to instill joy, not to get it "right' or wrong".

Variation:

  • If your child is not yet reading, or if you don't have a book at their reading level, choose a well-loved favorite.
  • Invite your child to look at the pictures and tell the story to the other child, pet, or toy.

9. Table Place Setting Cards

Recommended Age: 18m+ 

Level of Parent Involvement: Low, once your child has more practice

Prep Time: under 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Index cards or small cuts of paper, folded in half
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
  • A set table

Steps

  • Write the names of people who will be joining a meal on the index cards.
  • While you are preparing the meal, invite your child to decorate the name cards.
  • Once your child has finished decorating the name cards, invite them to choose where each person will sit at the table. Have a designated space to put the name cards. “You may choose where we sit for lunch today. You can put the name card on top of the empty plate.”
  • When sitting down for the meal, acknowledge your child’s choice. “You decided that I would sit next to the window today!”

10. Surprise Notes

Recommended Age: 4+

Level of Parent Involvement: Low 

Prep Time: 5 minutes Activity Time: 10 minutes (or longer depending on your child's attention span)

Materials

  • Small post-its or strips of paper
  • Pen or pencil

Steps

  • Prepare simple action word notes for your child to find in surprising places (your child’s pillow, dinner plate or chair, on the sofa, held by their favorite stuffed animal, on the bathroom mirror).
  • Tailor your notes to your child’s reading ability. For example, if your child is an emerging reader, stick with three- or four-letter words (run, sing, hum, clap, jump, hop, drink). When your child finds the note, they should act out the command they find.

11. Surprise Storytelling Box

Recommended Age: 3+

Level of Parent Involvement: High

Prep Time: 5 minutes Activity Time: 20 - 30 minutes

Materials

  • Shoebox
  • Nature items: leaf, acorn, pinecones
  • Household items: utensils, toys, clothespins
  • Art/craft items: yarn, googly eyes
  • A few pictures from magazines

Steps

  • Have your child search outside or inside the house for interesting items. Place them in the shoebox.
  • Close your eyes and pick something out of the container to start the story.
  • Take turns selecting items to build your story as a family.

Variation

  • Invite an older child to work on this independently and write down the story as they go.
Meet the Author

Ashley Yates

Ashley is an elementary educator who has taught children aged 5 – 12. She is also a parent of two elementary-aged boys and incorporates Montessori parenting principles into their home. As a former public-school teacher and life-long learner, Ashley is inspired by Maria Montessori’s scientific and evidence-based approach to education.

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