Math and Numbers

#22 Math Fun with Transportation Toys

Math fun with transportation toys is easy and makes math relevant. Kids develop familiarity and confidence when they experience math as part of play.

math fun with transportation toys

Children often play with cars and trucks by zooming them. This can be math. Cars go fast, but one will go faster. This is a comparison. Young toddlers may not use the words fast, faster, and fastest, but they know the idea. Instead, they might say one car is fast, fast.


Comparing is part of math. Putting tractors in order of size is math play.  When kids are playing with cars, trucks, and other toys we can occasionally add comments, such as, “This car is small. This car is big.” Kids may find a different big one to show us.

math fun with transportation toys

A pile of cars is fun to count. Start with just a few. When counting cars with your child, place either your finger or your child’s on each toy  as you count.  Number sense is more than saying the words in an accurate order, it’s also experiencing each number.  In order to understand what ‘three’ means, kids need to have a sense of ‘threeness.” When does 3 cars look like? How about 3 trucks?  Ask your child to make a group of a certain number of toys. If there’s a shoebox available, it can be turned into a garage. Will that number of cars fit in the garage?

toys for math fun

Another critical aspect of counting is that one number goes with one item. Each time we say a number that means one more. One way to develop this concept is by matching. One car goes on one race track. This is called one-to-one correspondence or one-to-one matching.

math fun with transportation toys

Parking lots are real world examples of one-to-one correspondence. Only one car fits in each parking space. You can make a parking lot with a shoe box lid and dividing it into spaces. A parking garage can be made out of blocks or Lego for more one-to-one math fun with transportation toys.

math fun with transportation toys

Everyday as kids play there will be opportunities to experience math hands-on. This is what develops a positive, easy familiarity so kids feel confident when it comes to learning about math. As many as 1 in 4 kids are burdened with math anxiety. We can change this easily by finding ways to include math in children’s play. Can you add any other ways to play with transportation toys?

Transportation Play #13: Transportation Counting Activity

Make the day count with this simple transportation counting activity that also helps to develop number sense. These are two early math skills for kids.


In urban areas, there are lots of red, yellow, and green traffic lights. You can make a traffic light counting board with a piece of paper or cardboard. Down the left side, print the numbers from 1 to 5 or for kids that are keen about numbers from 0 to 10. Across the rows, draw the appropriate number of circles for each number. Zero has no circles, one has 1 circle, etc.

To make the traffic lights, for kids beyond the everything-in-the-mouth stage, you can use red, yellow, and green buttons. Or you can use something that kids can eat, such as dried cranberries for the red and mini-Ritz crackers for the yellow. Green is a little trickier, maybe frozen green peas? We looked through our button supplies and found a dishful.

Big Sister counted and filled the circles, going in a line from left to right. Little Sister filled in the circles at the bottom corner. While Big Sister could tell the numbers when she looked at them, Little Sister had to count down from zero until she got to the name.
Counting is much more than just knowing the name of the numbers and how to say them in order. Counting means understanding the relationship between numbers and objects. Each number going up means one more object.

Number sense is an awareness of how many items for each number. For instance, two has one thing and another thing. That’s all. Two isn’t lots, it’s a small number. For kids, 10 is really lots. Some kids might notice how the number of circles in this transportation counting activity and board get bigger like stairs.

transportation counting activity

As with so many other skills, kids develop accurate counting and number sense from play experiences and everyday opportunities. Do kids need to know how to count to 10 before kindergarten? What they need is to have some familiarity with numbers so numbers do not feel strange and bewildering. This happens by such ordinary activities as counting, talking about numbers, noticing them in the neighborhood, and using them in play activities. What do you do to make your day count?


In the following article, by blogger Jenni B of DearMum, there are more ideas for early math fun.

How to Incorporate Math throughout the Day with Your Toddler

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(image credit:

If you asked any kid, no matter how old, what their least favorite subject in school is, the answer is most likely going to be mathematics.

Frankly, who can blame them? Even as adults, many of us still hate having to do anything math related, which is unfortunate since mathematics is one of the most important subjects that can shape our future. Study after study, researchers have shown that kindergarteners with elementary level math skills demonstrated better academic performance than the children that excelled in other areas.

While there are a myriad of mathematical art projects that combine creativity with systemic learning at elementary levels, the skills cultivated early on will set your children up for a future academic career. This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a math tutor before they’re old enough for school, as there are plenty of ways to teach math throughout the day, whether you’re out shopping or simply having some playtime with the kids, without making it appear as a structured math lesson.

At the grocery store
Working with prices may be too advanced for children at a very young age, but you can improve their skills in counting numbers by helping you pick out vegetables, eggs, and any other items that can be selected in multiples. Have your kids say the numbers out loud as they pick out the food. You may even ask them to add or subtract items to get a certain total.

During playtime
Many have forgotten the importance of playtime as parents fill their kids days with sports, piano lessons and dance classes. Although there is no defined structure for playtime, this is when your kid develops a foundation for all skills learned in later years. There are loads of mathematical concepts to learn with toys and games. Prime examples include puzzles that develop spatial skills, play money that improves counting skills, and building blocks that introduce geometry skills. Simple number board games designed like Snakes and Ladders are also helpful for preschoolers, as the Phi Delta Kappan Common Core explains, “It provides multiple cues to both order of numbers and numbers’ magnitudes or how big and small numbers are in relation to one another.”

In the kitchen
An effortless way to build early math skills in our young ones, having your kids in the kitchen with you will help them understand basic math and science concepts. The main thing you as the adult need to keep in mind is using kid-friendly recipes, ones with uncomplicated measurements and ideally can be accomplished on their own (with parental supervision, of course). As they grow older, you can also teach them about time and temperature.

dearmumblog-jennifer-birchAuthor Bio: DearMum/Jenni B
DearMum is an auntie of two preschoolers that love to bake cookies with her and go on grocery trips with her. With all the time she spends with her children, she tries to incorporate learning with all the kid’s activities. Watch out for her own blog soon!

Bubble Activities #22: Bubble Wrap Math Patterns

Since we had out both the paints and the bubble wrap, we did some more painting and using different colors created bubble wrap math patterns.


bubble wrap math patterns

Using 2 scrap blocks of wood about the size of Duplo blocks, I covered these with bubble wrap and stuck a push pin in to hold it together. Little Sister chose her two favorite colors, red and blue. The reason she did is because red and blue mix together to make purple which is the almost the only color she will wear currently. That could all change, but for the moment, purple scores. Dipping one block in red, and then another in blue, she created a simple pattern.

Information can quickly cause overload on our brain circuits, so the brain uses the strategy of patterning to deal with it. In his article, How Learning Patterns Lead to Brighter Children, Matt Powers says, “Out of all mental skills, pattern recognition is said to have the highest correlation to intelligence.” This is understandable because being able to find and make patterns helps to make sense out of information and to use it.

bubble wrap math patterns

Younger children will start with simple patterns, like red/blue, red/blue. As they figure out how how to use this repetition, they will make more complex patterns, such as red/blue/green, red/blue/green. Homes have patterns in tiles. Clothes have repitition in colors and shapes> Nature has extraordinary ones in trees, leaves, coloration, water, rocks, and more.

After doing a few red/blue, red/blue bubble wrap math patterns with the blocks, Little Sister couldn’t resist any more. Using the reason that her finger needed to tell her what color to use next, she dipped one finger into the paint and made a dot on the paper. Of course, that wasn’t quite enough so 3 fingers made the next dot. The rest of her hand must have been feeling left out, so instead of bubbles, there is a blue hand print. Although she dipped it in red for the pattern, it came out purple. Surprise, surprise.

bubble wrap math patterns

This bubble wrap math patterns activity is definitely hands on, would you agree?

Bubble Activity #16: Counting Bubbles Math Fun

With Big Sister going to school, Little Sister has been showing more interest in paper and pencil activities. She had fun counting bubbles with this simple activity.   Counting bubbles outside is almost impossible. Sometimes, instead of one single bubble floating away gently, several really small ones appear and disappear before they can be counted. … Continue reading Bubble Activity #16: Counting Bubbles Math Fun

Bubble Play & Learn #13: Bubble Math-Science Activity

Bubbles Make Raisins Dance Bubbles are exciting for kids and this bubble math and science activity just pops with fun. It’s simple and easy to do, combining play and learning. Find a clear jar or bottle. Because spills can happen with kids, we used one with a lid. With your child, count out 10 raisins … Continue reading Bubble Play & Learn #13: Bubble Math-Science Activity

Time Change for Young Children – Clock Treasure Hunt

The time change for young children can create wrinkles, and not just in the bed covers. Anything happening at your house to get ready for springing forward? We might think young children wouldn’t be affected by the time change—after all, they can’t read a clock—but that’s not the case. Maybe it’s because they can’t that … Continue reading Time Change for Young Children – Clock Treasure Hunt

Star Wars Math Counting and Patterning

Children’s play counts when it comes to early learning and development so an idea for a play-of-the-day is Star Wars math  counting and patterning. Not having Star Wars characters and toys isn’t even a problem. We have a few but not enough to count—pardon the pun—so instead we used some glow-in-the-dark stars that came from … Continue reading Star Wars Math Counting and Patterning

Dinovember: One-To-One Correspondence and Play

Play is so amazing for learning. Play time with dinosaurs and cars was a great opportunity for figuring out one-to-one correspondence or matching. Besides counting and making a pattern sequence, this is another critical skill for math. Not only that, it’s important for language too. What is one-to-one correspondence? Just like it sounds, it’s matching … Continue reading Dinovember: One-To-One Correspondence and Play