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Here are some simple tasks for very young children:

1) When you get your children up in the morning, ask them to stretch as high as they can. Then let them hop or crawl across the room. Even sleepyheads can have fun using their muscles, and these movements help them understand themselves in space.

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2) When your children get dressed, ask them to match the colors of their clothes. "Let's wear yellow today. Can you find your shirt with the yellow duck?" As they get older, ask them to look for patterns in their clothing. There can be patterns with alternating colors, stripes or plaids, squares or circles, or pictures - like big flowers followed by little flowers. Ask children to find and describe patterns, "My shirt has a pattern. It is red, blue, red, blue." Patterns are tools that we use to solve problems because they help us predict what comes next.

3) Discuss the events of the day with your children: first we eat breakfast, then you go to child care or school, then we will go to the park.

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4) Little children can learn the names of different shapes. Traffic signs are a good place to start. Yield signs are triangles, highway signs are rectangles, and stop signs are octagons. Ask children about the signs they see. "Is this sign just like one you saw on another block?" Talk about how many sides it has, or how many corners it has. Older children may talk a lot about what they saw. "That sign is a rectangle. It has 4 sides and 4 corners." But for younger children, you may be doing most of the talking, "That sign is yellow. It is shaped like a triangle."

5) Sing songs that rhyme, repeat, or have numbers in them. Examples are "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe." These songs reinforce patterns in words and sound, and are playful ways for children to practice language and mathematics skills. Try a backwards counting song, like "Five Little Monkeys" to reinforce children's understanding of the fixed ordering of numbers.

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