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12 EYFS Maths activities to count on

6 min of reading
10 May 2024
A child reading a handmade treasure map in a forest, by a shelter made of branches

EYFS Maths plays a vital role in the seven areas of learning and development in the early years. Early mathematical knowledge is thought to directly predict reading, academic ability, and social confidence (Duncan et al, 2007).

Spreading far wider than just numbers, early years maths activities help children recognise patterns, develop comparison skills, and think scientifically. This is why it’s important to offer a variety of EYFS Maths activities for the children to enjoy.

Read on to learn how pirate treasure maps are helping children’s mathematical skills.

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    Early years maths: What does the EYFS framework say?

    The EYFS statutory framework recognises the need for variety and frequency when planning maths activities in your nursery. Early years settings should develop relationships with numbers up to 10 and spotting patterns.

    The practical use of manipulatives is encouraged to support children in exploring the concepts of number, shape, space, measure, and spatial reasoning.

    The main takeaway from the guidance for nurseries about early mathematics is that children should develop positive attitudes, genuine interest and enjoy exploring mathematical concepts through play.

    12 Early Years Maths activities to try

    If you are looking for fun but varied EYFS Maths activities to try, look no further. We share 12 of our favourite maths activities EYFS children will love, and that’s not even the best part.

    Most of these activities can be enjoyed with existing or minimal resources yet still develop their mathematical skills.

    Counting copycat

    This maths game is great for toddlers, it can be played between two children or you can get involved! The gist of the game is to copy the objects player one picks up. You may wish to focus on copying the number of objects and the object’s colour, size or weight.

    Sock pairing

    Hear us out with this one. You know all of the ugly socks you have lying around at home? They have a recycled calling as a maths manipulative.

    A big basket of odd socks will not only keep children entertained, but it can also improve their pattern-spotting skills, as well as their fine and gross motor skills, for a physical development win.

    We aren’t sure of the age at which this task stops being fun, but for toddlers, it’s a blast!

    'Eye' can see you

    Who doesn’t love animals? Play pattern-spotting games with animals to develop observational skills (it also doubles up as a communication and language activity). If you’re fortunate enough to have access to different animals or can find virtual alternatives to the real thing, children can play counting games.

    For example, on a trip to the zoo, you might ask the children to find another animal with four legs.

    Share this activity with your nursery parents to try at home. They can upload images, videos, and comments to the Parent App using home observations.

    Sing it out

    It’s surprising that so many songs include numbers and counting. The children in your nursery will be too young to appreciate a rendition of Steps’ “5,6,7,8”, but alternative songs are available.

    Here are a few of our favourite number-related rhymes:

    • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive
    • 1, 2, buckle my shoe
    • Ten in the bed
    • Hickory Dickory Dock
    • Three blind mice
    • Ten green bottles sitting on the wall

    Real-life Maths activities

    When thinking of EYFS Maths activities, you may not even need to alter your nursery routines. Applying mathematical counting, estimation and measure to everyday activities in the early years is simple.

    For example, if the children line up to leave the nursery room, they could count the number of children (up to 10), walk as tall as they can, as wide as they can and even walk in pairs.

    A tasty maths calculation

    Food and maths activities, tell me more! During snack time, get creative with counting activities. The children can help to hand out snacks to others (five grapes, two slices of banana etc) – do be mindful of hygiene and any food allergies you should be aware of from their online Child Profile.

    If you feel even more creative, you can make pizzas with children using wraps. Encourage the children to count the toppings they place on their pizza.

    Let's go shopping

    Understanding money should be a mathematical concept introduced at an early age. To clarify, we don’t mean expecting your toddlers to count the correct coins or give change (wait until key stage 1 for that!), but the concept that items are bought by ‘spending’ money can be understood by all ages.

    In your role-play area, set up a shop. The children can be given counters, tokens, or even pieces of pasta to ‘spend’ in the shop. A simple key showing how many pieces of pasta an item is worth can be helpful.

    Outdoor shape explorer

    During your next outdoor walk, encourage the children to notice shapes. You can print or draw some simple shapes to take with you for reference (a circle, square, or triangle are good starting points).

    A wooden table or desk covered with rocks, papaer, pens and paints, with a child's hands outlining a rock

    Or, bring outdoor maths opportunities to the nursery with a selection of different-sized sticks. Using the drawn shapes as a template, the children can create their own 2D shapes.

    Maths-related books for early years

    Combine early maths and early reading for the best of both worlds. So many EYFS books have number themes running through them.

    Here are a few popular maths-related EYFS books to try in your nursery:

    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (a firm favourite) by Eric Carle
    • How Many Legs by Kes Gray
    • Simon Sock by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet (a great one for your odd sock basket)
    • One to Ten and Back Again by Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap

    Estimation at work

    Your nursery rooms are likely to have tuff trays and water play stations. Water play is an excellent vehicle for developing estimation and measuring skills. Give the children a small container, access to water and a measuring jug. The challenge is to fill the container with the measuring jug just to the brim without overspilling.

    The perfect place for adult prompts, such as:

    • Do you have enough water to fill it with one jug?
    • Is the container bigger or smaller than the measuring jug?
    • Can you find another container the same size as the measuring jug?

    A little to the left

    Finding treasure on a pirate map is the type of maths we’re here for! Co-ordinates and direction are introduced into maths during primary school.

    Following simple-step instructions not only strengthens speaking and listening skills but also sets the foundations for some seriously talented mathematicians (and pirates).

    Pattern spotting

    Patterns can be found anywhere. A traffic light has three circles, multi-link cubes can be made into reoccurring patterns, and hopscotch follows a pattern. Help your nursery children find patterns and continue them. They can use crafts, natural materials or Maths manipulatives.

    Did you know that continuing a colour pattern using multi-link or Lego is actually the beginning of algebra?

    For more brilliant EYFS activities, check out our Ultimate guide to EYFS activities blog post and easily cover the seven areas of learning!

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