A great skill for problem-solving is learning to read and make graphs.  Graphs that compare amounts (quantities) of real life objects or situations are known as concrete graphs, and they can be quite easily understood, by young children.

Pictorial graphs use photos or pictures to represent real things.  They help to connect the real to the abstract.  This helps to lay a foundation for children to be prepared for symbolic graphs that use lines, bars, numbers, and letters.

Offer many experiences with both types of graphs.  You can begin as simple as two column graphs and model how to gather and display the data in horizontal and vertical formats.  Then, model how to read the graph by verbally summarizing the information with your child.  Graphing skills begin with sorting and classifying.  When you graph with your child, you are taking those sorting activities one step further.  Soon, you may see your child do a sorting activity as a graph from the beginning!

Graphs can be done as small as a piece of paper and as large as a table cloth or shower curtain.

Egg cartons and ice trays make great two column graphs.

Pictorial graphs can be done with stickers, photos, magazine pictures, stencils, or self-drawn pictures.

You can also use colored masking tape to lay out a graph on the refrigerator.  Add magnets to the backs of your pictures and you have a magnet graph.  You can also use cookie sheets (available for $1 at most of those stores where everything is $1).

For graphs that will be sorted into numbers, program index cards with numbers and attach a strip of ribbon.  Add a clothes pin with the data.  This is great for word count graphs.



Make sure you discuss the data from the graph.  Some of these questions could be:

  • How many _____?
  • Which has the most?
  • Which has the least?
  • How many ___ and ___ together (addition)?
  • How many more ____ than _____(subtraction)?
  • Put these in order from most to least/least to most.

For starters, I am going to use our pets, just to show how many graphs we can do.  When doing this activity with a child, talk about all of the different ways they could be sorted:

      • Male/Female
      • Dog/Cat
      • Straight hair/curly hair
      • White/Not white
      • Short ears/long ears
      • Hyper/Calm
      • Less than 10 lbs/ More than 10 lbs.

That would be a whole week of graphing activities with the same data.

Here are a couple of examples of these graphed with photos of our pets:

Pet Graph1  pet graph2


Let’s take a look at some graphing activities that you can use with every day items:

CEREAL GRAPH: As your family uses boxes of cereal, before you discard the empty box, cut the front off.  Use the fronts to make a large graph on the floor or table.

You can graph:

Cereal with fruit/without fruit
Adult cereal/kid cereal
One color/Colorful

For older children:

Serving size
Calories <160/>160 (any number you choose)

NOTE:  When you have completed the cereal box graph, store the fronts in a gallon/2gallon zip top bag.  You can use these for cereal box puzzles, role-play grocery store, etc.

EYE COLOR GRAPH: Graph the eye colors in your family.

GRAPH WEATHER by the week or by the month (for older children, you can find the percentage of days the temp was a certain level, percentage of days had rain, sun, etc.)



  • M&M’s
  • Skittles
  • Gummy Bears or other gummy candies
  • Runts
  • Snack/Trail Mix
  • Fruit Loops
  • Trix Cereal
  • Lucky Charms
  • Starburst
  • Animal Crackers
  • Gumballs

To make the graph more visually appealing, glue the wrapper on the page, or draw a giant wrapper and let the center be the graph.

RAISIN GRAPH: If your family eats the small boxes of raisins, make a large graph for your raisin count.  Use a poster board, and divide out into 5-6 sections. Label the sections:  <20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, >50.  As a box of raisins is eaten, count the raisins. Glue the empty box to the correct space on the graph.

This can be done with small bags of crackers, cookies, candies, etc.

LETTER COUNT NAME GRAPH: Graph names by numbers of letters in the name.  Include friends and family.

DRY BEAN GRAPH: Graph a bag of dried beans.

TOSS THE DICE GRAPH: Graph the numbers rolled on a die.

LEAF GRAPH: Go on a leaf walk and graph the leaves you find.  Your child can color in one block per type of leaf.  This is an example:

leaf graph

SHOE GRAPH: Graph the shoes in your child’s closet by:
Type (sandal, flipflop, boot, dress shoe, etc)
Left/right (This is great if there are a bunch of missing shoes.)

VEHICLE GRAPH: Graph the types of vehicles you see while traveling.  (car, truck, freight truck, train, boat, jet, van, SUV, etc)

CHOCOLATE CHIP GRAPH: How many chocolate chips in each cookie?

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO GRAPH? Use this blank graph and let your child choose what to graph.

THEMATIC GRAPHING: You can do a graph with every theme you teach.  I will include graphs in each of the themes posted on Lori’s Own Little World.

Ideas for graphing:
Animals (zoo, farm, habitat)
Types of businesses in your neighborhood
Junk Mail
Where does it grow? Tree, vine, plant, bush
Family’s favorite fruit, fruit color, sweet/sour
Color shirts

This entry was posted in Early Childhood, Education, graphing, lesson plans, Math, Preschool and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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