I am always writing about how important getting out in nature is if you want your kids to enjoy math (see this post and this post, for example), so today I am writing about some great outdoor math activities for kids! These are all simple and fun ideas – no special tools or advance planning is needed! These are specific guided activities that you and your child can enjoy together, but I want to stress that free time in nature is also a wonderful way for kids to develop critical thinking and observation skills that will help them excel in math.
Running, spinning, and climbing are all great way to get kids thinking mathematically! Here are some fun active outdoor math games for kids:L
- Spin a certain number of times in one direction, and then “unwind” by spinning the same number of times in the opposite direction. Add some simple science in by testing if you they feel more or less dizzy if they spin fewer times in one direction than the other.
- Measure distances, first by carefully placing one foot in front of the other, then by running, and then by leaping. How many small steps are two trees apart? How many running steps? How many leaps?
- If you have a watch handy, time yourself running different distances. Then see how much longer it takes if you are jumping, skipping, hopping, or running backwards.
Make a Collection
Make a nature collection from whatever you can find lying around. Arrange your collection by size, or weight. Count out how many blades of grace it takes to fill the space of one pine cone. How many wood chips? How many pieces of dirt?
Talk about Shapes
What shapes can you find in your yard, park, or neighborhood? I think of spider webs as being made up of a bunch of lines, but with morning dew present there are a lot more spheres to look at than lines!
How often do you stop with your child to really examine plants and flowers? This kind of careful examination will help your child learn to look for and recognize patterns – another valuable mathematical skill!
Find the Beauty!
Mathematicians see their field as a beautiful art. Math and nature are closely intertwined, and I am convinced that learning to see the nature in the world around us makes all of us better mathematicians!
More Fun Learning Activities for Kids
For parents looking for playful activities that are clearly educational, this book is a great resource:
If you are looking for a home preschool curriculum, ABC & 123 is a wonderful place to start! I contributed to the book, along with some of my favorite early education bloggers. The activities provide a tiny bit of structure in a playful environment where children can explore early literacy and numeracy skills.
MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.
17 thoughts on “Outdoor Math Activities for Kids”
I love these no-prep ideas!
Such a great post on using math in nature!
I love how you merge nature with learning!
Thank you, Mia!
Great ideas, MaryAnne. It must be so exciting to have another kindergartener this year.
Love how all you need is the great outdoors and nature to learn!
It’s amazing how much learning can be done with few or no special materials!
These are fun ideas! We have done the timing distances. I like the idea of making mathematical observations!
So many nature collections in my house. So many.
You can never have too many nature collections ;)
These are wonderful ideas! It makes perfect sense that if we want our kids to enjoy math, we can’t expect them to just sit inside looking at flashcards. Who wants to do that? Not me!
What a lovely post and great ideas! I can imagine the giggles if I had my kids count their spins in one direction, then the other! :)
Math can so easily be FUN!
I think you are so right. Math and art and nature are completely linked together if you take the time to look.
Thanks for the beautiful post! I have enjoyed teaching math to my preK students using a multi sensory book called the Number Neighborhood from the See Hear Do Company. It’s AWESOME! Seeing something + Hearing something + Doing something = Successful Learning! http://www.seeheardocompany.com
Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll look it up.
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