12 playful ways to teach your child to count

numbers and objects for counting

These fun counting activity ideas will have your child counting quicker than you can say, 1, 2, 3!

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child building brick tower - fun activity to promote counting skills
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Learning to count is a really important mathematical skill for young children to learn, but it is also an important life skill. Counting is important for lots of situations that your child will come across in their early lives, such as sharing out items fairly with others, counting out resources they need, and knowing how many people are in their family.

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Why is important to encourage my child to learn to count through play?

abacus is a good resource to promote fun counting to kids
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Maths in general is a subject which causes people around the world to break down into a cold, anxious sweat! It is a subject that many of us openly admit to not enjoying or not feeling confident with, and is often something we have experienced in a less than fun way during our own education. Many of us have been told to learn the methods to get the right answers, but do not understand the processes behind what we are learning. This causes many people to have an avoidant attitude when it comes to numbers and mathematical ideas and concepts, and has a negative impact on the way we experience numbers in life, as well as often making us forget what we have learnt after about 5 minutes!

I want to help our future generation to have a more positive relationship with numbers and maths than our generation did. What better way to achieve this than through play?

Play is natural learning for young children!

  • It’s self motivating
  • It’s stimulating
  • It’s interesting
  • All young children enjoy play
  • Play helps children learn about life
  • There is no anxiety around play
  • Play is a no pressure activity

When you consider these points, what better way is there to introduce counting to young children than through play?!

More information can be found on encouraging your child to love learning here.

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How can I encourage my child to enjoy counting?

counting animals is a fun and playful way to teach counting to young children
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Young children are often not yet ready for more formal, sit down learning, so it is important to consider how to teach children important mathematical concepts through playful activities. Here are just a few of my favourites:

*Count each stair as you go up or down. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly up and down the stairs, so why not turn this into a fun learning opportunity for your child?

*Count their favourite toys together. This can be done really naturally in a number of ways, for example asking ‘can I look at 3 of your cars please? 1, 2, 3’, or counting them as you tidy them away.

*Count the amount of shells or rocks you can find on the beach. My own children really enjoy this one, and it can be a really good way to introduce shape vocabulary (such as ’round’) and language around texture (such as ‘smooth’) too.

*Count interesting and unusual objects. New objects will automatically gain your child’s attention, and allowing your child to explore them will create excitement and curiosity which you can then use to integrate counting. Some of my favourite resources which children seem to find incredibly interesting are shells, curtain rings, glass beads and pine cones.

*Sing counting songs. I am sure that each of you know your own traditional counting songs, so try to sing them with your child regularly. However, if you need some reminders, I like ‘5 Fat Peas’, ‘5 Little Ducks’, and ’10 Green Bottles’.

*Use counting puppets. It sometimes feels a little awkward and cringey to use puppets as an adult, but in my experience children love them! So, swallow your pride and have a go 🙂 I love these glove puppets, which lend themselves perfectly to the counting songs I mentioned above – there’s a 5 Little Ducks puppet and a 10 Green Bottles puppet, amongst lots of others.

*Count your child’s fingers and toes. This also works well with other body parts such as eyes, ears, and hands, and makes your child’s counting really personal and relevant to them.

*Play games involving counting, such as hide and seek. Games which have the counting element to them promote a natural need for counting in a relevant and interesting way.

*Count how many jumps or hops you can do. This could be hops over sticks, hopscotch, over a puddle: whatever works for you are your child will be great. The important thing is that it is enjoyable and naturally lends itself to counting practice.

*Read counting books together. There are so many lovely books out there which provide opportunities for counting, whilst sharing the cosy closeness that a book brings. My favourites are 10 Little Dinosaurs and One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller.

*Make use of the outdoor environment. In my opinion, the outdoor world lends itself to counting. You could collect leaves and sticks in the forest, count the amount of fish you spot in a stream, or count how many steps it takes you to get from one tree to another. There are so many ways to use natural spaces!

*Make counting a challenge. You could add a competitive element to your counting, once your child is a more confident counter (if this will motivate them – it doesn’t work for everyone). You could have races such as ‘the first person to pick up 5 bricks’, or add a timer to make it a challenge like ‘how many jumps can you do in 10 seconds?’. Note: the use of a timer sometimes adds pressure to children, so only consider this if your child is comptitive or enjoys this type of activity.

The above activities will require lots of modelling, time, and patience, but with consistency they will be very effective in supporting your child to develop and practice their counting skills.

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How can I implement these ideas in my own parenting?

If you want to build some playful counting opportunities into your own parenting, I would suggest that you first reflect on the following:

*How can I make use of everyday routines to fit in playful counting opportunities? For example, putting shoes on, doing up buttons etc.

*What are my child’s deep interests, and how can I naturally incorporate playful counting into these?

*Does my child get many different ways to practice counting, such as using objects, singing, and movement? Teaching children with a range of different methods help them to retain and build on their counting knowledge.

Self-reflective parenting

Let me know how you get on with these counting play ideas if you decide to use them with your own child. Have you got your own tips on what works well for promoting early counting skills?

Good luck in promoting a love of counting in your child, and I am always here if you need any further support – my goal is supporting children to develop a passion for learning which lasts a lifetime.

Love, Heather x

P.S. be sure to check out my Pinterest board dedicated to early maths ideas. It’s ever growing!

Author: Heather

I am a parent and teacher, as well as a parenting blogger.

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