We try and create a new graph weekly. I find that graphing activities can help children in many areas, but, specifically, critical thinking. I also find that we tend to use a lot of verbal communication (which is something I'm always encouraging with my preschoolers). Creating and working with graphs also allow for us to reinforce many of our most basic math goals such as sorting, counting, and talking about which set has more/less/equal. There are several different types of graphs that I try to introduce with my students. Today's was a very simple two way sort. Our theme is Transportation so we sorted and graphed modes of transportation with wheels and no wheels. We had some interesting conversation regarding the horse and the plane/helicopter. They did agree on a column of where to put them, if they should put it in a column. My youngest student kept saying, "The horse belongs on the farm!"
There are many ways to create graphs! You can use actual objects (which works well with children who are just beginning to graph), pictures, tally marks, color in or stamp squares, and so on. There are many types of graphs you can introduce to your children. Object graphs, picture graphs, symbolic graphs, and bar graphs. Venn diagrams and glyphs are fun ways to show data also! Typically we do object and picture graphs with a few bar graphs thrown in. I find that at the preschool stage, they don't really grasp symbolic graphs well, they are pretty abstract, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't toss one in every once in awhile.
*Whenever possible, let the children decide on the information and collect the information to be graphed.
* Let the graph stay up for a few days and talk about it every once in awhile, asking your child open-ended questions about it.
For a transportation theme you could sort and graph by
* wheels/no wheels
* how children (or family and friends of your child) have traveled. (This is nice to use for a venn diagram)
* colors of matchbox cars or other vehicles
* size of the toy vehicles you have around the house
* if you live near a well-traveled road you can use tallies to track how many certain colored vehicles drive past.
* whether the vehicle is use in the air, on land, or in the water.
* there are many types of vehicle manipulatives out there. We use vehicle counters that you can get from Lakeshore Learning or Discount School Supply (and I've seen them at teacher supply store) to use for object graphs also. Remember that you can add interest by hiding them in a sensory tub or throughout the room and the children go on a search and then graph the ones they find. The following picture is from www.discountschoolsupply. com
* symbolic graph using two wheeled vehicles and a ramp. Have them predict which vehicle will go the farthest after exiting the ramp and "test" them several times and using tally marks for which one goes the furthest each time.
Use your imagination and let your child's imagination go too!