For children, learning always begins with play. This is how they wrap their minds around new ideas and make them their own.

“There should be no element of slavery in learning. Enforced exercise does no harm to the body, but enforced learning will not stay in the mind. So avoid compulsion, and let your children’s lessons take the form of play.”—Plato, The Republic

If we want our children to enjoy learning math, our first job is to establish an attitude of playfulness.

This is especially important for anyone working with a discouraged child or a child who is afraid of math. The best way to help a discouraged child is to put away the workbook. Try something different, fun, and challenging.

### Play Math Games

Games meet children each at their own level, helping them understand that hard mental effort can be fun.

- My Favorite Math Games: All the free games here on my Let’s Play Math blog, sorted by age/grade levels.
- Math for Love Games: Collected by the creator of Tiny Polka Dot and Prime Climb.
- Games for Young Minds: Kent Haines’s posts teach not only how to play the games, but also how to help your children think about the math.
- Acing Math: A huge collection of topical worksheet-replacement games to play with a deck of cards.
- Math Hombre Games: The motherlode of math games for all ages. It’s easy to get lost on this page, so bookmark it and explore a bit at a time.
- For older students: Games and Math at Math Munch blog.

### Play Math Art

Math art lets children experiment with geometric shapes and symmetries. Through art, students can explore a wide range of mathematical structures and relationships.

- Dot Grid Doodling: Several ways to explore mathematical concepts on a page of dot-grid paper.
- Spirolateral Math Doodles from Anna Weltman’s delightful
*This Is Not a Math Book*. - Math Art Projects for Kids from Erica at What Do We Do All Day? blog.
- Mathematical Art Lessons from Clarissa Grandi’s Artful Maths blog.
- Math Art Project Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Karyn Tripp’s book.
- For older students: Art and Math at Math Munch blog.
- Or the Math Hombre Math x Art page.
- And Annie Perkins’s amazing #MathArtChallenge with links to 100 creative ideas for playful math art!

### Join the Conversation

For more tips, check out my anchor post about How to Homeschool Math.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!

- What are your most pressing questions about helping your children with math?
- Or what tips would you share with other parents?

Please add your ideas in the Comments section below.

CREDITS: Photo (top) generously supplied via Unsplash.com by National Cancer Institute.