Boosting Early Numeracy Skills in Children Through Play

The role of play in early childhood development is so important, it is a vital component of learning, especially when it comes to developing early numeracy skills. Lots of playful activities lays a strong foundation for mathematical understanding and helps children grasp complex concepts in a natural and enjoyable way. Here’s our top reasons why play can greatly enhance early numeracy skills in children.

1. Play Builds Basic Number Sense:

Simple counting games that involve counting objects, steps, or even claps can help children understand the concept of numbers and their order. For example, counting the number of blocks while building a tower reinforces numerical sequences.

Also, rhymes and songs with numbers, such as songs like “Five Little Ducks” or “Ten in the Bed” introduce children to counting in a fun and memorable way. These repetitive and rhythmic songs help with basic counting and subtraction concepts.

2. Understanding Quantities and Comparisons:

Sorting and grouping activities, where children group objects by colour, size or type, teach them to recognise patterns and compare quantities. This is fundamental for children to understand more complex mathematical concepts as children grow.

Board games such as, “Snakes and Ladders” or “Monopoly Junior” involve counting spaces and recognising numbers on dice, helps children to associate numbers with quantities and develop a sense of magnitude.

3. Spatial Awareness and Geometry:

Toys like building blocks and Lego allows children to explore shapes, sizes, and spatial relationships. This is due to them constructing structures with blocks or the Lego pieces. Children learn about symmetry, balance, and geometry through hands-on experience with these blocks.

Jigsaw puzzles also enhance spatial reasoning by requiring children to recognise shapes and how they fit together. This skill is crucial for geometry and problem-solving.

4. Recognising Patterns and Sequences:

Activities that involve creating or identifying patterns (such as alternating colours or shapes) help children to understand sequences and predict what comes next. Recognising patterns is an important skill for understanding algebra and advanced math.

Stringing beads in specific sequences (e.g., red, blue, red, blue) not only improves fine motor skills but also helps children learn to identify and create patterns.

5. Developing Measurement Skills:

Cooking and baking are great for introducing children to measuring. Measuring ingredients for a recipe teaches children about quantities, fractions and the concept of more or less. It’s a practical way to introduce children to units of measurement and volume.

Playing with sand and water, using different-sized containers, helps children understand concepts of volume and capacity. They learn through experimentation and observation.

6. Enhancing Problem-Solving Abilities:

Setting up a pretend shop or restaurant allows children to use money, make transactions, and handle change. These activities require them to solve problems and think critically about numbers and operations.

Strategy games like Chess or Checkers involves strategic thinking and planning ahead, which are important skills for solving mathematical problems.

Our STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) activity cards is a great way to introduce maths skills early on through play. The activities use simple items from around the home or supermarket. Shop our STEM Activity Cards here.

STEM activity cards

To help nurture numeracy skills through play, it’s important to create an environment where children feel free to explore and experiment. Integrate play into your daily routines by using everyday activities as opportunities for playful learning. For example, counting steps while climbing stairs or sorting laundry by colour. Participate in play with your child, guiding them gently and asking questions that provoke thinking and reasoning. Encourage children to ask questions and explore different ways of solving problems. Celebrate their curiosity and creative solutions.

Play is not just a break from structured learning; it is an essential part of developing early numeracy skills. Through playful activities, children naturally discover mathematical concepts and develop a love for learning that will serve them throughout their educational journey. By integrating play into everyday life, parents and educators can provide children with a strong foundation in numeracy and a lifelong appreciation for mathematics.

Outdoor Activity Ideas for Kids Aged 2-10 years

The sun is finally shining! So we thought we’d write a guide with some exciting activities to inspire kids to get outside and connect with nature. From escapades in the garden to expeditions in the wilderness, there’s something for every young adventurer to enjoy. So grab your gear, put on your explorer hat and let’s embark on a journey of discovery!

Nature Scavenger Hunt

All kids love a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items for kids to find, such as pinecones, wildflowers, animal tracks or interesting rocks. Encourage them to use their observation skills and creativity to spot each item.

Scavenger Hunt Tips

Tailor your scavenger hunt to your local environment (e.g., urban parks, forests, beaches). Provide each child with a container or small bag to collect their treasures. Consider adding fun challenges or riddles to make the hunt even more exciting.

DIY Nature Journal

Encourage kids to document their outdoor adventures in a nature journal. Provide them with a blank notebook and art supplies to sketch, write, or collage their observations, thoughts, and discoveries.

DIY Nature Journal Tips

Encourage kids to write about what they see, hear, smell and feel in nature. Include prompts or drawing exercises to spark creativity (e.g., draw your favourite tree, describe the sounds of the park). Encourage regular journaling to track changes in the natural world over time.

Backyard Camping

Turn your backyard into a camping adventure. Set up a tent, roll out sleeping bags and enjoy a night under the stars. You can. Tell stories, stargaze and listen to the sounds of nature.

Backyard Camping Tips

Keep it simple with backyard-friendly activities like roasting marshmallows, playing flashlight tag or singing campfire songs. You can even invite friends or family members to join in the fun.

Nature Art Project

Get creative with nature-inspired art projects. Use natural materials like leaves, sticks, flowers and mud to make sculptures, photo frames or eco-friendly paintbrushes. Encourage kids to let their imaginations run wild as they experiment with different textures and colours.

Nature Art Project Tips

Provide guidance and inspiration, but allow kids the freedom to express themselves through their artwork. Display finished pieces in a nature gallery or outdoor exhibition to showcase their creations. Discuss the importance of environmental stewardship and how art can be a form of advocacy for nature conservation.

Wildlife Watching

Observe and learn about local wildlife in their natural habitats. Bring binoculars and a guide to identify birds, insects, mammals and other creatures. Keep a tally of sightings and take notes on behaviours, habitats, and adaptations.

Wildlife Watching Tips

Choose a quiet area with good visibility and minimal disturbances to maximize wildlife sightings. Practice patience and quiet observation to avoid scaring away animals. Respect wildlife from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them.

With this outdoor activity guide, kids can embark on exciting adventures, which will help them foster a deeper connection with nature and unleash their creativity. Whether exploring the backyard or venturing into the wilderness, there’s endless fun to be had outdoors. So gather your young explorers and let the outdoor adventures begin!

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Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

Developmental milestones: what to expect in your child’s first Year

Welcome to the incredible journey of parenthood! From those precious first smiles to those wobbly first steps, every moment just feels so incredible. The first year of a baby’s life is filled with remarkable milestones, each one marking a new achievement and a step forward in their development. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the developmental milestones you can expect during your child’s first year. But don’t worry too much if your child isn’t meeting every milestone at a precise stage. Every child is unique—some babies will reach certain milestones sooner and others later. We will provide insights into a child’s physical, cognitive and social-emotional growth.

Cognitive milestones

Beneath that beautiful chubby exterior, your baby’s brain is working continuously to absorb and process information around them. In the first few months, they’ll begin to recognise familiar faces and respond to sounds and voices. As they start to approach 6 months, you might notice them reaching for objects or exploring them with their mouths. This is a sign of their growing curiosity and them beginning to understand the world around them. Around 8 to 10 months, they may start to imitate sounds and gestures, starting the process for language development. Keep engaging with your baby through talking, reading, and playing to support their cognitive growth. We have some great books and learning resources that can help to develop you child’s brain. View our books and learning resources here.

Develop child's brain through reading books

Physical milestones

During the first year, your baby will undergo amazing physical transformations. In the early weeks, they will master basic movements like lifting their head and turning it from side to side. By around 6 months, they may start sitting up unassisted and at this stage they may even begin to crawl. As their muscles strengthen, they’ll start pulling themselves up to stand and eventually taking those precious first steps, usually around 9 to 12 months. Please remember, every baby develops at their own pace, so don’t be concerned if your little one takes a bit longer to reach these milestones.

Social-emotional milestones

Your baby’s social and emotional development is just as important as their physical and cognitive growth. From birth, they’ll seek comfort and security from you, forming a strong attachment bond. As they approach 3 to 6 months, they’ll begin to smile in response to your smiles and maybe even engage in games like peek-a-boo. By 9 months, they might show some signs of stranger anxiety, becoming wary of unfamiliar faces. This is a normal part of their emotional development. Try and encourage their social interactions by arranging playdates and exposing them to different environments.

The first year of your child’s life is an absolute whirlwind of growth and discovery. It goes by so fast! Your baby’s first year will be filled with endless moments of joy and wonder. By understanding the developmental milestones they’ll reach during this time, you can better support and nurture their progress. Remember, every child is unique, so celebrate their individual journey and cherish each milestone they achieve. As you embark on this incredible adventure together, may you find endless delight in watching your little one grow and thrive!

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Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

How to smash sensory play and why it’s important

Sensory play is a favourite in our house! We try to do some sensory play with our daughter at least a few times per week. We love watching our daughter develop and thrive through this type of play. Sensory play is a crucial part of a child’s learning and development but we know it can feel a little overwhelming. Whether its knowing what to do or worrying about the clean up afterwards, hopefully this blog will help you get started!

The benefits of sensory play for children

  • Cognitive development: sensory play engages stimulates multiple senses and enhances cognitive abilities like problem-solving, decision-making, and creativity.
  • Fine motor skills: sensory activities involving textures, pouring, scooping, and manipulating objects helps to develop children’s hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
  • Language development: sensory experiences provide opportunities for children to express themselves verbally, expanding vocabulary and communication skills.
  • Emotional regulation: sensory play can have a calming effect on children (and let’s face it, us parents will try anything to help calm our children), helping children to regulate emotions, reduce stress, and build resilience.
  • Imagination and creativity: sensory materials inspire imaginative play, encouraging children to explore, experiment, and invent new ways of interacting with their environment.
  • Scientific inquiry: Sensory exploration lays the groundwork for scientific curiosity, as children observe, hypothesize, and experiment with cause and effect. Our STEM Activity Cards are a great pack to get children involved in science activities early on. They’re simple, fun and can be created with everyday items from the supermarket. Shop our STEM Activity Cards here.
STEM Activity Cards
  • Self-Discovery: Through sensory experiences, children learn about their preferences, sensitivities, and boundaries, fostering self-awareness and self-confidence.

Tips to win at sensory play

Keeping sensory play simple can be both effective and practical.

  • Use everyday materials by utilising common household items like rice, pasta, beans, water, sand, flour, and oats.
  • Limit the materials: Offer a few sensory materials at a time to avoid overwhelming children. This allows them to focus more deeply on the experience. –
  • Focus on one sense: while sensory play often engages multiple senses, sometimes focusing on just one sense can simplify the activity. For example, playing with different textured fabrics or exploring various scents.
  • Open-ended play: Provide materials without specific instructions. This helps to allow children to freely explore and create their own experiences. This encourages creativity and problem-solving.
  • Minimal setup: keep your sensory set up simple and easy to clean. Use trays or containers to contain messes and consider using materials that are easy to sweep or wipe up.
  • Outdoor exploration: nature around us provides a rich sensory experience for children. It offers wonderful textures, sounds, smells, and sights. Take children outdoors to explore natural elements like dirt, leaves, grass, and water.
  • Sensory bins: use sensory bins or trays to contain materials, making cleanup easier and more manageable. These can be as simple as a plastic tub filled with sand, water, or rice.
  • Rotate materials: introduce new materials periodically to keep sensory play fresh and exciting. Rotate through different textures, scents, and colours to maintain children’s interest.
  • Follow the child’s lead: In the words of Maria Montessori “Play is the work of the child”. Observe children’s interests and preferences and tailor their sensory play experiences accordingly. Let them guide the play and follow their cues.

Go with the flow when it comes to sensory play. We often spend so much time setting up a sensory activity that it can then be hard to sit back and watch our kids grab anything but the items we originally set up. What’s your favourite sensory activity you like to do with your child? Let us know in the comments below

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Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, women in STEM and the Montessori practice.

Promoting independent learning using educational posters

4 mins

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When it comes to education, visual aids can be a powerful tool to enhance learning and engagement, especially for children. One type of visual aid that has proven to be effective are educational posters. Educational posters are specifically designed to display information and concepts in an engaging and visually appealing way, which can help children learn and retain information more effectively.

Here are some of the benefits of educational posters for children:

  1. Enhancing learning: Educational posters can help to reinforce educational concepts in a visually compelling way, making them more memorable and easier to understand. Posters can also help spark curiosity and interest in learning.
  2. Encouraging engagement: Children are often drawn to colourful and visually appealing posters, which can encourage them to engage with the material and spend more time exploring and learning. The posters can create a fun and interactive learning environment, which helps to keep children interested and engaged.
  3. Improving retention: Educational posters can help to improve retention of material by presenting information in a clear and visually stimulating way. Children may be more likely to remember what they have learned when it is presented in a way that is easy to understand and engaging.
  4. Supporting language development: Educational posters can also support language development by introducing new vocabulary and concepts. By seeing and hearing new words in context, children may be more likely to remember and use them in their own language.
  5. Promoting independent learning: Educational posters can be used to create independent learning opportunities, allowing children to explore and discover new information on their own. This can help to develop critical thinking skills and foster a love of learning.

Overall, educational posters can be a valuable tool for supporting children’s learning and development, and can help to make learning more engaging, memorable, and fun. These posters can be used in a variety of settings, including classrooms, homes, and libraries, and can benefit children of all ages and backgrounds.

When selecting educational posters for children, it is important to choose posters that are age-appropriate and relevant to the child’s interests and learning goals. Additionally, it is important to display the posters in a prominent location where they can be easily seen and accessed by the child.

Educational posters
Shop our educational posters here

In summary, educational posters can offer many benefits for children, including enhancing learning, encouraging engagement, improving retention, supporting language development, and promoting independent learning. By using educational posters as part of a comprehensive approach to learning, children can develop a lifelong love of learning and a solid foundation for academic success.



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The author

Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, black women in STEM and Montessori.

7 ways to encourage independent play

4 mins

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Ok, Mums and Dads, Let’s get to the nitty gritty of independent play. There is a lot of pressure to be able to constantly entertain our children without the use of a screen. There is a famous quote from Maria Montessori that “Play is the work of the child.” But what does this mean? Children learn and grow through play. She said that “the satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.” Independent play is important for children’s development, it can boost their confidence, creativity and much more. So how do you start giving your child time to explore and learn more about themselves?

7 ways to encourage independent play

  1. Support your child rather than lead
  2. Make independent play part of their daily routine
  3. Avoid too many rules
  4. Be mindful that a child’s attention span is short
  5. Make sure their toys are age appropriate
  6. Let your child be fully engaged and avoid too much commenting and expectations
  7. Start with time together and then move onto independent play

Children as young as 2 months can show signs of beginning to engage with some independent play, simply by observing different texture and colours.

What are the benefits of independent?

  • Enhances problem-solving skills
  • Boosts creativity
  • Forms a child’s interests
  • Reduces over-stimulation 
  • Enhances brain development
  • Enhances a child’s confidence as they explore and master different things
  • Helps a child to feel relaxed and in turn calms their nervous system

So take this time as an opportunity to sit back and relax a little.

What are some of your favourite independent play activities? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.



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The author

Natalie is the co-founder and illustrator at Little Scholars Playground. She is passionate about literacy, learning, illustrating, black women in STEM and Montessori.

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