Math Games for Infants

By Laura Wilson
An infant's brain understands beginning math skills.
An infant's brain understands beginning math skills.

Although math seems like a complex subject, babies are starting to learn the basics long before they can walk and talk in sentences. According to MSNBC, infants are developing beginning math skills such as matching and number concepts before their first birthday. Parents and educators can plan games and activities that will take advantage of an infant's ability to learn these concepts early in life.

Blocks of Many Shapes and Colors

Blocks in various colors and shapes promote math skills.
Blocks in various colors and shapes promote math skills.

Parents and teachers can turn an ordinary bucket of blocks into a valuable educational experience. As adults sit and play with infants, simply sorting blocks by color or shape will help beginning math skills. For example, start placing all the blue blocks in one pile and the red ones in another. After a time, many infants will start to catch on and join in the sorting. These sorting skills will later lead to progress in patterning, geometry and measurement.

1, 2, 3, Whee!

Give baby a gentle push after counting to three.
Give baby a gentle push after counting to three.

Many older infants like to be bounced or swung around. This activity needs to wait until an infant shows neck muscle control, but once she gets to around six months, an adult can play an activity called "1, 2, 3, Whee!" In this game, an adult simply counts to three, and then on the "Whee," swings the baby around or upside down (while holding securely) or bounces him on a knee. Many little ones enjoy this game while learning beginning counting skills.

Dump and Pour

Containers and cups in the tub teach measurement.
Containers and cups in the tub teach measurement.

Once an infant can sit up, bath time becomes more like play time. Provide an infant with cups and bowls of many sizes, and they will naturally start scooping up water and dumping it into other containers. While this seems like simple play, an infant is learning beginning skills of volume measurement. Keep in mind that while a baby will remain happily occupied in a bathtub, an infant should never be left unattended around even a small amount of water.

Stacking Rings and Cups

Nesting cups teach sequence skills.
Nesting cups teach sequence skills.

While walking through a baby toy department, parents can find many new electronic toys, but some of the classics are the best for teaching math skills to infants. For decades, stacking rings and nesting cups have been staples in the toy aisle. These simple toys are not only great for small motor skills, but for math basics as well. According to Education.com, infants can learn concepts such as order and sequence when trying to put these toys together from biggest to smallest.

Matching Games

Putting a sock with a shoe shows reasoning skills.
Putting a sock with a shoe shows reasoning skills.

Matching is a skill children develop early in life, and older infants have the skills to play a matching game. According to PBS, parents or teachers can provide items such as a pot and lid, a sock and shoe, a brush and comb, and a fork and spoon and play a matching game. An adult can put the items in a random order, and older infants, perhaps with a little help at first, may be able to sort out the objects that go together. For instance, a child will be able to put the lid with the pot, and the sock with the shoe. These early reasoning skills will eventually develop into success at higher math levels.

Reading Books

Use books to promote math skills in infants.
Use books to promote math skills in infants.

Reading to an infant promotes literacy and language skills, but taking the time to go beyond the words on each page can help develop math skills in an infant. As parents and teachers look at books with infants, consider the activities that can take place on each page.
For example, on a page with several dogs, ask the child "How many puppies do you see?" Model pointing to each while counting out loud. In another page, point out how the ball is a circle, or the house is a square. Infants can learn basic skills such as counting and geometry while boosting literacy development at the same time.

About the Author

Based in upstate New York, Laura Wilson entered the writing community in 2010. She writes about children, education and health-related topics for various websites. Wilson has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Houghton College.