We don’t all enter the world with a runaway passion for math and science. Many kids warm to the subjects right away, but not every 5-year-old is chomping at the bit to learn to count to 100. Unless, of course, you make it interesting.

In our household, we often turn to our pre-K daughter’s love of art when it’s time for learning more about numbers and science. When we slip some left-brained topics into a right-brained package, she’s usually a lot more game. Here are a few artsy activities that sneak a little science or math into the process:

  • Name that number. Gather old magazines, so your child can cut out different representations of a number, then turn the clippings into a collage. Seeing a big, bubbly “15” beside a digital clock-style “15” can later help him spy the number in different contexts.
  • Counting with patterns. Draw a grid on colored construction paper. Then put a mix of beads, buttons, or cereal pieces into a container. Let your child sort the objects by color or size, then have her glue like pieces in rows. When she’s finished, ask her to count how many of each kind she has.
  • Homemade sedimentary rocks. Start with a tall plastic container and lid. Have your child fill it up with layers of sand in different colors. Occasionally, position a “fossil” (a small shell or button) against the side of the container. When he’s done filling the container, compare the colorfully layered result to an image of the Grand Canyon. Explain how some rocks are formed over time by many layers of sand, with the oldest layers at the bottom. Also explain how footprints or bones of creatures (including dinosaurs) are often found within old rocks, which scientists can study. Ask, “So, if this container were a rock, which of these fossils would be the oldest?”
  • Solid to liquid and back again. Peel the paper off crayons, then turn them into liquid by placing them in an old saucepan over low heat. Put cookie cutters on a sheet of aluminum foil, and pour the melted wax into the cutters (hold shapes down to keep the wax from seeping under the edges). Then point out how cool air turns the liquid back into a solid. Kids can pop the colorful shapes out once the wax has solidified – and start coloring.
  • Shoe-box habitats. Designate one shoe box as a polar habitat and one as a rain forest habitat, then help your child color or decorate the inside of each. The polar habitat, for example, might be blue and white, with cotton balls for ice. The rain forest could use clippings from your garden or grass. Next, decide what animals would live in those habitats, and what qualities make them ideally suited to their environment. For example, a monkey can use its arms, legs, and tail to swing from forest branches; a polar bear stays frostbite-free thanks to its thick fur coat. Create paper or clay animals to “live” in the habitats.

Science and math needn’t come from a book. There are plenty of ways to introduce many of those concepts. And the humble crayon can help.