Maths on the Beach!

We are lucky enough to live very close to the beach and so when everyone is feeling well we like to go down and spend a couple of hours playing on the sand and with the stones. The game we played this week can easily be replicated with some pebbles or stones that you can find in your garden or out and about on a nature walk.

The new favourite game is to collect stones in buckets and carry them up and down the beach. Charlie loves stones and will pick them up wherever he sees them either in the garden, at the playground or on the beach so this is a great game that even the little ones can get involved in.

Isabel decided she wanted to make a picture using the stones. Megan and Isabel went off to find as many stones as they could, unfortunately they were collecting stones that were not the sizes that she needed for her picture. I came up with the idea of a size guide to help them. So we sorted the stones into biggest, big, medium and small and lined four of them up so they could check the sizes.

Megan was able to identify the biggest stone and Isabel was able to order the rest. They then went off to collect stones again, but were checking the stones against their size guide. They had great fun doing this and spent ages collecting stones that were the right size. After a while Isabel decided she had enough stones to make her picture, she was trying to make a unicorn. Megan wanted to make a picture so I helped her to make a circle which we turned into a smiley face.

This activity prompted lots of conversation about size, comparing sizes and ordering sizes. It also meant that Isabel was using her creativity in a new way by choosing stones for a purpose either the colour, shape or size to make her picture.

It can easily be adapted for whichever environment you are living in or close to. For example you could go on a nature walk and collect sticks or leaves to make a big picture when you get home (or while you are out and about). The sticks or leaves could be lined up according to size and your child can then decide which ones are the best for their picture e.g. this stick is too long so we only want sticks that are smaller than this one. The important thing about this activity is the discussion and comparison of sizes, as well as the creativity being used to make a picture in the end.

I have included below a list of mathematical words that this activity can explore and that can be used when completing the activity together. Most of the words will come naturally as you play I have just included them here as it is amazing how many mathematical words we use daily, and also how many words the children need to understand at a young age. It is through good purposeful play that children can explore the meanings of words and develop their understanding.

Solving problems

Reasoning about numbers or shapes, puzzle, answer, right, wrong, what could we try next? How did you work it out? Count, sort, group, set, match, same different.


Size, compare, guess, estimate, too many, too few, length, width, height, depth, long, short, tall, thick, thin, longer, shorter. Exploring patterns, shapes and space – shape, flat, curved, straight, round, hollow, solid, corner, face, side, edge, end, make, build, draw.


Think, imagine, start from, look at, point to, show me, put, place, fit, arrange, rearrange, change, find, choose, collect, use, make build, tell me, describe, pick out, talk about, explain, show me

As usual I hope you find these ideas useful and it would be great to see your nature pictures.

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