In my book: “The Journey from Child to Scientist: Integrating Cognitive Development and the Education Sciences” (APA Press), (which I must here advertise! 🙂 ) Bob Siegler has this wonderful paper where he described how easy it is to give kids a math kickstart just from playing a simple number game, akin to chutes and ladders, that you can make just with paper and pencil.
From very very young I started Leo on math and science. There are some amazingly simple things that anyone can implement requiring no equipment at all, even with very very young children. Here are some that we did:
SWINGING ON: “Counting On” is starting from a number other than 1. Often, when we would be walking along we would do the 1,2,3 Swing game. But why start over at 1?! 1 2 3 Swing … 4 5 6 Swing … etc. In fact, you don’t even have to count by ones! I think that by the time he was 2 Leo was counting to 1000 by many factors, including negatives.
COUNTING STAIRS: Although there only so much swinging one can do, and it requires two people … well, three if you include Leo! 🙂 … we made a ritual of counting stairs. We were especially lucky in that we lived in a place that had about 15 stairs — a good number for very young kids — and it had a split at 7. Seven, as most of you know, is where lots of kids have difficulty, possibly because it’s far enough from an even 5 that it takes a little more mental effort to keep track when you’re doing math with it. But 7 became Leo’s favorite number (at that age, anyway).
POOL DEPTH: By the time we started swimming, probably quite young, Leo was already fascinated with numbers, and whenever we came anywhere near a body of water he would ask over and over and over: “How deep is it?” and “How deep is it at the deepest?” etc. The pool was especially great for this because it has fractions, like 8 1/2 feet, so I got to give him early fraction lessons…over and over and over! 🙂
Here’s one that I do have a pic of…
CAR DEFACEMENT IN THE NAME OF STEM ED:
It’s just a centimeter scale magic-markered onto the column nearest Leo’s window in the back seat of the car. I got this idea because whenever we would drive around, he was always complaining that the window wasn’t at the level he preferred, but, of course, I couldn’t see where he wanted it, so I put this on the column, and then instead of trying to show me, he had to tell me a number, or to move plus or minus some number to get it where he wanted it.
(This got me into some trouble with Carrie, whose car I defaced. Possibly she’s right that I should have used removable numbers, or at least put on masking tape. But will I admit that she’s right? NEVER! 🙂 )