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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Developing maths and number skills for under fives

Your child's number skills can be developed through stories, songs, games and imaginative play. There are many opportunities to learn about maths through everyday activities like measuring ingredients for cooking.

Developing maths skills

Maths is more than just learning how to count. Awareness of measuring and shapes also plays an important part in your child's development.


Your child may start to recognise numbers at an early age. They will go on to learn how to count, and will use their skills with numbers to solve problems.

To help develop your child's counting skills, you could:

  • help your child count items around the home - tins in the cupboards, toys in the toy box or pencils in the drawer
  • sing counting songs and nursery rhymes like 'Ten Green Bottles'
  • have your child guess the next number as the oven timer counts down to zero
  • point out numbers in everyday life - on the front door, birthday cards or clocks
  • ask your child to collect a specified number of objects
  • play games like Snakes and Ladders that involve using a dice


Your child naturally learns to use words to compare the things they see, for example 'bigger' or 'smaller' and 'taller' or 'shorter'. They then learn about the tools needed for measuring things, like scales for weight, tape measures for length and clocks for time.

To help develop your child's measuring skills, you could:

  • practice measuring things in the home with a tape measure and write down their sizes
  • compare the lengths of two objects
  • compare objects to see which is heavier
  • fill and empty containers
  • weigh ingredients for cooking

Learning about shapes

After learning about the names of shapes, your child's next step is to describe what they are like and what they can do.

You can encourage your child's interest in shapes by:

  • comparing the shapes of the street signs you see on the way to the shops
  • looking at everyday objects and finding words to describe their shape
  • getting them to find everyday objects which are squares, circles or triangles

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