1, 2, 3, Go! Fascinating Facts About Early Math and 9 Easy Counting Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten

Children really love it when their activities at home correlate with what they are learning in school. Find out where they are at and what you can do.

In Jean Piaget’s cognitive theory of development from 1942, he posits that while babies obviously cannot count, they do have what you might refer to as a rudimentary number sense. More recent studies indicate that infants between four to seven months have an ability to distinguish two from three, for example.1

However, cardinality, or the concept of order and relative value in numbers, i.e., one is less that four, starts around the ages of four and five2. This is why preschools often work on mnemonic devices that acquaint kids with the order of the numbers and sorting as a way of laying the foundation for grouping things into sets. In kindergarten, Common Core curriculum teaches the digits one through 10 first, then how to count by tens all the way to 1003. It’s then a pretty easy jump to counting from one to one hundred.

In order to bolster this building-block period of math, find out what your child is doing in preschool or kindergarten and incorporate some of these low-stress games and activities you can do at home with your little learner.

  1. I Spy Numbers Game. To make it easy, cap the number at five and as you are walking or driving to school, pick random multiple objects and do a numbers variation with the classic guessing game: “I spy with my little eye, something blue in a group of three.” The idea is for kids to start to pick out sets of things visually rather than counting them.
  1. Tallying Sticks. You can use any set of objects here, sticks from the backyard, pens, or popsicle sticks. Lay out four in parallel as you count together, and lay the fifth one across to indicate a group of five. Build on the multiples so they can get accustomed to counting by fives and tens.
  1. Pom-Pom Number Boards. This one is really fun and doubles up on the learning factor. You start with plates that have numbers written in big characters on them and each character has the appropriate number of dots on it. Your preschooler then puts the pom-poms on the dots by counting out loud. DiscoBratz has included a link where you can print the numbers: https://craftulate.com/2013/06/pom-pom-number-boards-with-free-printables.html
  1. Ice Cream Counting. This one takes a little prep on your part, but it’s an activity your child will come back to and enjoy playing with friends. Cut triangles out of sticky foam or construction paper to make the cones and label each one with a number and the appropriate number of dots. Then cut out multiple circles (different colors look more interesting to them) that the kids can stack on the cone. If you have a free wall, the kids can stick the foam to the wall to make their ice cream.
  1. Coin Games. Depending on where your child is at, you can make a game of sorting coins that can build in complexity as they get older. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can have them sort the different coins by size, but as they age, you can start to introduce the values: five pennies equal a nickel, ten nickels equal a dime and so on. This game will feed easily into later principles with earning and saving a la the piggy bank. There are some cool new-style piggy banks out there that let kids sort their different values into columns so they can see how much they are saving. Cool!
  1. Sand Sensory Art. When your child’s class starts working with the concept of 100, you can combine textures with writing and numerical identification. Cardboard, glue stick, and some sand and you are in business. Your little one can write the numbers and go over them with the glue stick, then pour the sand on (they love this part). When it dries, they can trace the numbers again. That tactile experience enhances the muscle memory and the visual number 100 at the same time.
  1. Water Balloon Target Practice. Obviously better for summer and with more than one kid, this game is a total hot-weather blast. Draw numbers on your driveway or sidewalk with sidewalk chalk. Disperse them far apart and out of order so the kids have to read them. Draw a box for them to stand in so that the numbers are within a couple yards, and then call out a number for them to try and hit with their water balloons. They can take turns and the game is over when all the numbers have washed away.
  1. The Egg Carton Game. Change it up a little for kids who are enthusiastic about counting and numbers by using egg cartons. Half dozen cartons work best in the beginning and as they get the hang of it, you can use dozen cartons. Beads or pennies are great for this. Kids drop one penny at a time into the cups and you can count with them up to six. Another option here is cutting off two of the cups to make multiples of ten.
  1. Paint Chip and Hole Punch Fun. Next time you are at the hardware store with your child, have them pick out ten different paint chips of their choice. Use a marker to write the different numbers on each one and punch the right numbers out, making sure you save the cut out dots. Gather up the dots and mix them up in a container. Lay the paint chips out and call out a number, then the kids collect up all the same colored dots and lay them on the corresponding paint chip.

It is so easy to incorporate a little education into fun activities at home that there really is no reason not to. And when children have the themes at school reinforced at home, it really energizes them to learn more. And this is what we are all going for as parents: kids who are hungry to learn.



  1. http://web.media.mit.edu/~stefanm/society/som_final.html
  2. http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-3-year-old-counting_10329630.bc
  3. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/K/CC/A/1

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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