This week we are looking at ways to teach preschoolers to count!
I’ve got some awesome and easy DIY games you can make to play with your child that will teach them important number concepts while having fun (and learning how to share and take turns!).
There’s also a roundup of terrific games from fellow bloggers that will get your child counting.
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Note: Most of these game ideas are created using suggestions taken from Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics.
I bought this book during Teachers College and have used it countless times in my class and now it’s a perfect resource of ideas for teaching my son at home!
To play many of these games, you will need to make a set of 12 Number Cards which I will show you how to make. I made mine out of fun foam – which is easy to cut, colourful, and durable, but you could also just use construction paper. Onetime enjoyed helping me with this activity too!
You Will Need:
- approximately 10 sheets of 5 x 7″ fun foam (I used black and white, but you can use whatever colour you want!)
- fun foam shapes (we found pumpkins, ghosts, witches and bats!)
- glue stick or glue gun
- permanent marker
- a die for game playing
Cut 6 playing-card sized rectangles out of one colour (black), and 6 out of another colour (white).
On one side of the black cards, glue pumpkins to make “sets” or groups of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Glue the pumpkins in the shapes that you see on dice.
On one side of the white cards, use the marker to make dots representing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Now flip all the cards over. On the back of all the cards (black and white), glue different amounts of other shapes. For example, on one card Onetime and I glued 3 bats, on another we glued 4 shapes, etc.
The numbers in these sets should NOT match the number of pumpkins or dots on the other side. These sets can be all the same shape or different shapes. Stick with sets of 1 to 6 to keep things simple.
Okay – now you’re ready for some games and activities!
Learning to Say the Number Words In Order
Kids have to be able to rhyme off the number words in the correct order before any counting can happen. Eg. “One, two, three, four, five, six….etc.”
How can we help?
- Talk about numbers – point them out when you see them written down
- Practise counting toys, fingers, people, etc. together frequently!
- Play with calculators and show your child where to find 1, then 2, then 3 etc. Call out numbers and have your child press them. Start with just one number and gradually work up to larger strings of numbers, “Press 2, 4, 6″
- Make up chants for when you count or little songs (Think: the Sesame Street 1,2,3 song!)
- Chant “1,2 buckle my shoe, 3, 4 shut the door, 5, 6 pick up sticks, 7, 8 lay them straight, 9, 10 a big fat hen!” when counting
Other Ideas and Activities:
Check out Science Kiddo’s 12 Simple Ways to Learn Math On the Go.
Make and play this adorable 5 Little Pumpkins craft from A Little Pinch of Perfect.
Check out this Feed the Monkey game from Totschooling to practise counting and number recognition.
Learning One to One Number Correspondence
Once kids can say the number words in order, they need to learn that each word represents only one thing that they are counting. For some kids, this may not develop until they are 4 or 5 years of age.
- Practise counting everything with your child and point to each object as you count with your finger.
- If your child is struggling with one to one correspondence, gently hold their hand and finger and move it to point to each object they are counting. Count out loud with them while you are doing this. Make it fun!
Game #1: Reach the Top Game
Play our “Reach the Top” Game.
You Will Need:
- a die
- a gameboard (see above)
- counters (can be beads, mini foam shapes, coins, Cheerios, beans, pieces of corn! etc.)
Instructions: 2 players can play this game. If you want to play with more kids, print off an extra game board. Each player takes a turn rolling the die and counting the number of dots on it (with your assistance if necessary).
Have the child count out a number of counters that matches the dots and place each counter in the space on the arrow. Start at the bottom. We used mini-pumpkin foamies as our counters!
The object of the game is to fill the arrow. To make the game more difficult, require that the top point in the arrow be filled exactly. For example, a 3 could not be used to fill the arrow if there are only 2 spaces left. Players can just keep rolling until they get the right number.
Game #2: Die and Dots
You Will Need:
- all 12 Number Cards
- a die
Instructions: Place all 12 cards on a table with their dots and dice patterned sides showing up. Take turns rolling the die.
When a number is rolled, have your child find a card that matches that number. They can keep that card in their pile now.
If there is no card left that matches the die, the player loses a turn (or you could allow them to roll again until they get a number where they can find a match.)
The game continues until all cards have been claimed. Now, each player turns all of his/her cards over to show the sides which have random numbers of shapes on them.
Each player counts all of these shapes and the winner is the person with the most shapes.
Or – if you don’t want to introduce competition (many kids this age find this difficult and that’s okay!), just practise counting the total shapes.
Or players could compare shapes. Who has the most witches? Who has the fewest pumpkins? How many ghosts do we both have all together?
More Ideas and Activities:
I love this Pretend Store Dramatic Play that gets kids counting and playing with “money!” from Mom Inspired Life.
There are tons of awesome ways to use a 10-frame at The Elementary Math Maniac.
JDaniel4’s Mom has a fantastic activity where kids can practise counting, and thinking about more or less, all while measuring!
Gift of Curiosity has a huge (and free) Halloween Printable Pack that includes some number sheets to work on one-to-one correspondence.
My Bright Firefly has a Ten on Top inspired counting and measurement activity for preschoolers.
Here at One Time Through, we also have a few fun counting activities!
Practise decorating and counting with flowers!
Bake with your child and incorporate counting and measurement skills.
Have some cool counting fun with this Ice Cream Shoppe sensory math bin.
Make a DIY Photo Counting Book with your child.
Sort, count and graph shells!
Practise counting and turn-taking with this exciting Pom-Pom Game!
Teach the Concepts of More, Less and the Same
The best way to teach this is to ask your child questions like: “Who/which has more?” and “Are there enough?” and “Which group has less?”
Game #3: Dare to Compare
You Will Need:
- All 12 of the Number Cards
Instructions: Spread out 6 of the same colour cards and have your child randomly pick 2 of them. Ask the child, “Which card shows MORE?” then “Which card shows LESS?”
Once this becomes easy, add the other 6 differently coloured cards and repeat choosing one card from the dots group and one card from the shapes group. Ask the same questions. Play for as long as your child shows interest.
Game #4: More, Less, and the Same
You Will Need:
- 12 Number Cards
- a pile of mini-foam shapes (At least 20 shapes that are all the same. Eg. All pumpkins.)
Instructions: Spread out the cards and have your child pick any one card. Have your child count the shapes on the card. Then have them make a group of the same number using the spare shapes.
Next, ask them to make a group with more shapes, and then a group with less shapes. Repeat for other cards. Play as long as your child shows interest.
Note: You may have to demonstrate a few times how to do this for your child. Also – it is helpful to know that it is much more difficult developmentally for kids to make the Less group.
Game #5: Picture Dot Matching
Help your child to practise matching groups to find the SAME amount.
You Will Need:
- All 12 Number Cards
Instructions: Place all 12 cards face up. Have your child match the shape cards with the dotted cards that are the same amount. Continue until all the pairs are matched up!
Note: If your child gets good at the matching game, step it up a notch! Lay out all the cards again and then have them pick a card randomly.
Next, ask them to pick up a different card that is either MORE or LESS (you decide). Then you can model a turn and they can tell you to find a match that is MORE or LESS. Continue until all cards are paired up!
For additional “more or less” practise, check out:
More or Less Ocean Animals Worksheets from 3 Boys and a Dog.
Fantastic Fun and Learning also has some great suggestions for turning a cute bat craft into valuable mathematical learning!
Recognizing Numbers and Learning Number Names
Teaching kids to recognize and “say” the number words (e.g. “One, two, three”) for numerals (e.g 1,2,3) can be taught very much like how we teach the letters of the alphabet. Here are some fun ways to do it!
Left Brain Craft Brain – Number Painting Boards
Kitchen Floor Crafts has a fun and active math idea for kids using gourds!
Mom Inspired Life – Number Recognition Fall Tree Matching
Stella 123 – Halloween Pack