Numeracy and math skills in early childhood education are important, however, each child develops at his/her own pace, and what one child may be ready to master in relation to math skills, another may not be ready for. This developmental difference can be due to many things including your child’s interests, natural ability, age, environment, etc.

A great way to teach your child when they are not in preschool is to incorporate numbers and math skills into your daily living. There are endless opportunities for counting, shape identification, and other math skills in our every day lives. When you take your kids to the grocery store (I know, not the optimal experience!), ask them to help you put items into the cart. They will love being your little helper, they won’t run away from you (dodging the “nearly losing your child in the grocery store” experience), and you can focus on numbers. If you need some apples, have them pick out the number you need and help them count. This every day activity will help with 1 to 1 correspondence as well.

So, What Should a 4 or 5 year Old Know When It Comes to Math?


When kids reach age 4, most of them can accurately count up to 4 objects. Some may be able to count 10 objects and a few may be able to count 20 objects.

Many kids this age can sequence numbers accurately. If you give them a sequence of numbers in order, they can tell you which one comes next. Such as 1-2-3-4-?, they can tell you the number 5 will come next.

Once they turn 5, they may be able to tell which number is bigger given two numbers between 1 and 10.

Preschoolers at this age will mainly be mastering numbers from 1-10 and will also be attempting to understand the concept of zero; which can sometimes be difficult for kids to understand. Some kids can master numbers up to 20 as well.

Geometry: Shapes and Space

By age 3 and 4, children will begin to physically explore positional or directional words such as up/down, above, below, behind, etc. This can sometimes be a challenging concept for kids to learn, but presenting the information to them through play is very helpful. If they are able to explore this concept by using their own bodies or objects in a directional way, they can master this concept. For example, use a teddy bear and put them in front of a box, behind a box, etc. By age 5, they may be able to correctly use these directional words in sentences.

By age 4, many children are able to recognize and name shapes such as circle, rectangle, triangle, and square. They may even be able to draw one of these shapes if they look at a picture for several seconds.

Many children at age 4 demonstrate symmetry concepts even though they may not yet fully understand symmetry. Symmetry can easily be shown to children this age in nature as well as in building and art. Kids will often demonstrate symmetry in their art projects or building projects, not because they necessarily understand the concept, but because it looks good.


By age 3 and 4, children learn to compare objects to see which one is longer, shorter, bigger, smaller, etc.

In the second half of the 4th year, children begin to understand the concept of more and less. If given a group of objects and one is taken away, they will be able to tell you that they now have less.

By age 4, most children can understand basic time concepts such as morning, afternoon, and night. They may be able to tell you the days of the week, months, and seasons. Telling time is usually a concept that comes later, around first grade, but some children in pre-k and kindergarten are able to learn how to tell time.

By the end of their 4th year, children can measure objects by using other objects such as paperclips, blocks, manipulatives, etc. The can measure things with these identical objects and tell you which one is longer or shorter.

Patterns, Reasoning, Algebra

By age 3, some children are able to see common patterns in every day life. They may be able to describe a sequence of events such as how you eat dinner or take a bath. As they get older, they will be able to describe these sequence of events in greater detail.

At age 4, children can make their own patterns. They can reproduce a pattern, finish a pattern already started and create their own pattern. They can do this as a visual pattern such as red-blue-red-blue… or as a sound pattern such as clap-stomp-clap-stomp. They progress from more simple patterns such as ABABABAB to more complex patterns such as ABBCABBCABBC.

By age 4, children are also able to group objects by size. By age 5, they are able to sort a group of objects by more characteristics such as color, use, type, etc. For example, they can sort a group of bugs by flying bugs and non-flying bugs. They are also able to explain to you how they sorted the objects.

Statistics and Probability

By age four, children figure out that some things can only be understood if they test it themselves. For example, if you tell a four year old that a ball does not bounce, they will likely have to try and bounce the ball themselves to see if it indeed does not bounce. children this age, may need to use many of their senses to figure out the result of something.

By age 5, children can understand simple graphs. For example, they can understand a graph that shows everyone’s favorite food in the classroom. They can understand by looking at the graph, which food has the most likes and which food has the least amount of people that like it.

Children at this age, can also understand the likelihood of an event to take place. For example, they understand that if they jump in the pool they will get wet and that it is unlikely to snow in the summer.

We will be focusing on all of these math concepts starting in the fall of 2017. By the end of pre-k at Imagination Station Preschool, your child will have most likely mastered all of these concepts and will be ready for kindergarten. We are looking forward to teaching these math concepts in fun and exciting ways that will fully engage your child in the process of learning. They will never know that they are learning though, because they will be having so much fun!

Check out our pintrest page of math ideas for the preschool aged child. There are a ton of great activities and the best ones, I think, are activities that incorporate two different learning skills such as a clothespin number match game. This type of activity focuses on building math skills as well as fine motor skills.

Numeracy and Math Skills: Imagination Station Preschool

Here is a free winter themed math center I made: Clip art is by Kari Bolt. Download the pdf file and have fun with your preschool child matching, counting and recognizing numbers up to 12. Enjoy!



As I said at the beginning of this post, these math skills are just guidelines. Every child is different and learns in his/her own style and time frame. Don’t force them to learn something you think they should because they will be reluctant to learn. Spend the time teaching your child math skills in every day life and sit down with them and do some of these math related activities if they show interest. Have fun because I have always felt that the most important thing is to teach your children that learning is fun!