Graphing activities are fun for kids, and great for embedding different math concepts. Graphing is a way to sort objects by their characteristics (such as color, shape or size). It is also a very visual way to learn early math skills such as; sorting by characteristics, comparing characteristics, counting, recognizing numbers, greater than and less than, most and least, and more!
Getting an early start by practicing graphing with younger kids can be pretty simple! Usually graphs include a numbered vertical line and horizontal line with sections for the characteristics you are comparing. Make graphing fun by using real objects and things your children are already interested in. Many things you have around the house are perfect graphing materials. Here are some graphing activity ideas you could try at home:
Graph with toys; Legos, cars, animals.
Legos are great for graphing by color. Legos also naturally look like a bar graph, when you stack the similar colors together. This makes it easy to see which one is taller or shorter, or which color has the most or the least. Toy cars, or vehicles, are great for graphing by more complicated characteristics or by color. You could graph cars by the type, whether they are trucks, buses, race cars, regular cars, planes, etc. If your child has small toy animals or even larger stuffed animals, you could make graphs by the type of animals they have. Use the graph to talk about which animals or cars they have the most and least of.
Graph with food.
Use snacks you have around the house and graph by color or another characteristic. You could use different types of snacks and sort them by their type. For example, goldfish, cheerios, other kinds of cereal, teddy grahams, etc. You could also make graphs using fruits and vegetables. You can use whole apples and make a large graph, to graph by color of the apples. You could make a graph using broccoli, apple slices, orange slices, berries,carrots, etc. to graph by whether something is a fruit or vegetable.
Graph with candy.
Graphing with candy can be a lot of fun, especially as a treat after the activity! Jelly beans are commonly used for graphing and great for graphing by color! You could also use m&ms, gummy worms, gummy bears etc. Candy and food are great to use for counting and when graphing larger quantities.
Graph things they find outside.
Kids love collecting things they find outside. After spending time outside, use the things they collect to make a graph. For example, things like rocks, leaves, pinecones, sticks, flowers, acorns, etc. are all great materials for graphing. When outside, you can encourage them to look for certain things or just let them find what interests them. While graphing talk about what they found the most and least of during your time outside.
Graph your shoes.
Shoes have a wide variety of characteristics to compare, which makes them great for graphing! In my preschool class, we took off all of our shoes and made a graph based on whether we had on sneakers, sandals, boots, slip on shoes, etc. The kids thought this was so silly and had a lot of fun making the graph with actual shoes. Try this at home with your family’s shoes!
Asking questions about the graphs you create is a great way to embed math concepts into the activity and get kids analyzing the data they collected. Here are some ideas of questions you could ask your child when graphing:
- What can you see from looking at this graph/ What do we know from looking at the graph?
- How many “red” (or whatever characteristic you are graphing) ones are there?
- Which one has the most? Which one has the least?
- Which one is greater than “red” (or whichever characteristics you are graphing)?
- Which one is less than “purple”?
- Which one has more than “green”?
- Which ones are the same/equal?
Graphing activities are great for practicing many early math skills. Be creative and use everyday items around your house that interest your child!