Learning Through Play: Maths on the Playground

Learning Through Play: Maths on the Playground

Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children

Early years numeracy is one of the most vital core topics for children. So why not support their learning through play? If you’re familiar with our blog, you’ll know that Hand Made Places are big supporters of outdoor learning. That’s why we’re sharing plenty of ways you can introduce outdoor maths activities into EYFS and KS1 lessons and playtime.

You can encourage children to develop their numeracy skills without them even knowing it! For our EYFS & KS1 maths activities, we suggest you create an outdoor learning area using:

  • Playground markings
  • Mirrors
  • Sand and water play
  • Weighing and measuring scales
  • Playground dice
  • Sensory gardens
  • Musical instruments
  • Fence panels
  • Blackboards and whiteboards

How to use your outdoor learning area for EYFS & KS1 maths

To make this resource useful for teachers following a curriculum, we’ve split our outdoor activities into different maths topics…

Counting, adding and subtracting – Number lines and grids

To introduce number lines into imaginative play, decorate the playground with brightly coloured creatures, then divide them into segments!

Playground markings for Counting, adding and subtracting | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

Just seeing the numbers in order while they play will be enough practice for some pupils. For others, you can teach them specific games and activities which combine the outdoor markings and maths topics. Here’s our suggestion:

When your friend gets near the dragon’s head, they need saving! To save your friend you must:

  1. Stand on the dragon’s tail,
  2. Guide them along its back by counting backwards from 20.

You friend can only step forwards when you say the number, so be quick!

Another way to encourage children to play maths games on the playground is creating outdoor ‘board’ games.

Snakes and Ladders is a classic game which is perfect for improving practical addition skills. Simply use playground markings to create a number grid and watch as pupils create their own maths games using outdoor dice.

Odd/even numbers and times tables practice – Musical instruments

Use percussion instruments to create engaging maths activities for children who need to practise their times tables.

Musical Instruments for odd & even numbers and times tables practice | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

Start with odd and even numbers: the leader counts in order, whilst children get used to the pattern of ‘odd and even’ by striking their drum or chime on even numbers. Once they are used to this, test them by calling out numbers at random and see who can identify even numbers when they’re out of sequence.

You can also use this activity for any times table, not just for multiples of two. For a particularly exciting activity, assign odd numbers to one group, even to another, multiples of five to a third group and multiples of ten to your final group. Then, when the leader counts in order, children find themselves in a maths lesson which feels more like a concert!

Musical Instruments for odd & even numbers and times tables practice | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

What makes this an outdoor activity? Of course you can play musical instruments inside, but at Hand Made Places we always have our reasons for doing things differently!

The principle behind outdoor learning is to remove the pressure of the classroom, something which can be particularly strong in maths lessons! In making this an outdoor maths activity, you allow children to feel a bit more relaxed in their learning. Furthermore, placing instruments outside makes it more likely they’ll keep counting at play time!

Place value and ordering numbers – Fence panels and blackboards

We’ve grouped these two maths topics together as you can combine them in one outdoor activity.

At Hand Made Places, we believe every part of the playground can and should be used productively. That’s where fences come in!

Fence panels and blackboards for place value and ordering numbers maths lessons | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

  • First, assign three or four consecutive pickets to represent place values (hundreds, tens, ones).
  • Assign the rest of the fencing to ordering.
  • You can attach signs or even engrave your fence to make this an on-going, easy-to-practise game.

In this maths activity, the teacher puts a number on an outdoor blackboard, written in digits if EYFS or in words if late KS1. Then the child adds beanbags or balls below the “place value” pickets, to represent the “building blocks” of the number. Finally, the child takes their place along the number-line fence; this is a great way to improve communication skills, as they talk to their friends to find out whether their number is higher or lower.

Shapes – Sand pits, playground markings and playground furniture

This outdoor shapes activity is perfect for introducing at EYFS before relating it to maths in KS1.

Playground markings and furniture for teaching shapes | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

First, set up your playground in different “shape” zones according to the objects and markings in each area. For example keep toadstool seats in the circle zone, and sit block seats on square markings.

Secondly, take children to the sandpit for a practical, sensory session. Encourage pupils to draw and identify squares and circles in the sand before making sandcastles from round and squared buckets.

This really helps to build on the relationship between 2D and 3D shapes.

Finally, give children hula hoops, balls, books, space-hoppers, boxes and building blocks to sort into their correct shape zones.

Symmetry – Mirrors and blackboards

Mirrors and blackboards for teaching maths and symmetry outdoors | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

To demonstrate symmetry, pick an object from the playground (for example, a symmetrical leaf) then draw it on the board. Then, invite the children to hold the leaf up to a mirror to explore, before identifying and drawing the line of symmetry on the board.

The outdoor environment means you can make these sorts of maths activities as structured or as investigative as you like. Encourage the children to explore this with different shapes, or even with each other! Using a standalone mirror means children can place larger objects half-behind the panel.

Measurement – Scales, water trays and planters

Scales, wter trays and planters for teaching measuring maths lessons outdoors | Fun & Practical Outdoor Maths Activities for EYFS & KS1 Children | Hand Made Places

For EYFS and KS1 children with developing motor skills, activities for learning about measurements can get a little messy, no matter how mathematical! That’s why it’s a great opportunity to take your lessons outside to allow children to explore the world of measuring and weighing.

Why not set up an outdoor “messy area” for sensory activities focused on this maths topic? Children will relish the chance to make mud pies following a recipe, weigh the contents of a water jug, or measure the distance between seeds.

So there you have it, our top tips for teaching maths outdoors using engaging, practical activities!
If you’re interested in creating your own outdoor learning area for EYFS & KS1 maths, get in touch with our team today for a quote.

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