Looking for a fun & easy activity to encourage your preschooler's math skills? Try this DIY puzzle!

Helping children grasp the concept of number sequence and the relationship of one number is an important skill to foster both at home and in school. In most toy stores you can find math sequencing puzzles in the early learning section, but did you know you can make a DIY version of these at home?

These type of early learning puzzles have become increasingly popular due to Common Core Standards indicating that by the time students leave kindergarten, they should know the names and sequence of number words up to 100. 

The preschool DIY math puzzle below is an easy craft you can do with your children with the added bonus of encouraging them to practice their counting with interactive play. The great thing about this DIY puzzle is that the picture they create on their puzzle allows them to easily self-correct themselves as they master their numbers.

Tip: After the puzzle is assembled, challenge your child’s number mastery by asking them questions about the sequence of numbers. Such as, what number is between two and four? What number is before three?

Making a DIY Math Puzzle is Easy!

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Supplies Needed:

Ruler (optional)

Painter’s tape

Natural popsicle sticks

Paint markers or acrylic paint

Black permanent marker


1. Select your popsicle sticks.

Choose how many popsicle sticks you want to create your puzzle with – the more you use, the bigger your puzzle will be. For younger kids, I recommend starting with five and working your way up from there by adding additional sets of five or ten sticks.

2. Tape popsicle sticks together.

Line up sticks to a table edge or use a ruler to keep them straight. Keep in mind to not have any spaces in between them or you’ll have gaps in your finished picture!

Now, grab a piece of painter’s tape that’s long enough to cover all the sticks, with a little leftover on each end. Lay the strip towards the bottom of the lined-up popsicle sticks to keep them in line.

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3. Rotate and add more tape.

Rotate your taped popsicle sticks so the bottom that you just taped is now at the top. Add an additional strip of painter’s tape. You should now have two strips of tape holding your lined-up popsicle sticks together – one towards the top of the sticks and one at the bottom.

Tip: To keep the tape from accidentally lifting up from the sticks on the ends, fold down the tape until it sticks to itself to make a seal. Then, add a strip of painter’s tape vertically to stick to work surface. This will ensure that your tape won’t move during your design phase. 

4. Sketch out your design.

Draw an outline of your design on your popsicle sticks with permanent marker. This will serve as a guide when you’re painting and also encourage kids to paint within the lines. Make sure the design spans all of the popsicle sticks, or it won’t work easily as a puzzle when you break them up.

For more adventurous kids, you can skip this step and have them freehand their drawings with paint markers or acrylic paint and a brush.

5. Color in your design.

Begin coloring in your design with paint markers or acrylic paint. Mix up the colors and have fun being creative!

Note: if you’re using colored popsicle sticks instead of the natural wooden ones, paint markers may not work. Since they’re treated with a color already, the markers tend to bleed and not be as vivid.

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6. Add numbers.

Once you’re done painting, let the sticks dry. Depending on what type of paint you’re using, this time could vary. (Paint markers will dry faster than acrylic paint.)

When your design is dry, peel off the painter’s tape on the top and bottom of the sticks. At the bottom, starting from left to right, write numbers in sequential order for your popsicle sticks (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).

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7. Time to play!

Now it’s time for the fun part – mix up the order of the popsicle sticks and encourage your kids to put them back together in order of numerical sequence.

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Tip: On the back of your child’s popsicle stick design, make sure to write their name. This is an effortless way to stop siblings from squabbling over which puzzle belongs to them.

Looking for more DIY crafts? Check out Glitter Slime: The Ultimate DIY Activity.

 

About Kristin MacLaughlin

Mom of three, fosters rescued dogs, and is helping to drive the conversation about digital parenting as VP of Consumer Marketing for Zift.

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