Ready to teach your little one numbers, but don’t even know where to start?
Let me share with you what I have been doing to teach my little ones, and maybe you’ll find some inspiration. I am really big about teaching through play, so when it comes to lesson time I choose to pull out games and toys to make learning fun!
I recommend starting these lessons around 18-24 months, or whenever they are able to repeat words after you. Here are some ideas that you can easily do in your own home. Have fun with it!
Table of Contents:
When Can I Start Teaching Numbers to My Child?
You can start teaching your child numbers and counting as early as you’d like! Again, I mentioned starting around 18 to 24 years of age as a good time to start.
The earlier you start the better – even if you feel as though much of what you are teaching isn’t really being absorbed.
Repetition is key with little ones, so the more often you teach these concepts, the better!
Start with basic number rhymes as soon as your child turns one, then point out simple things or objects with numerical values attached to them. This is a great, low-pressure, and authentic way to start teaching numbers to your child.
Your child will be able to really comprehend the value and meaning of numbers later when they are around four to five years old. Just in time for school!
Benefits of Teaching Numbers and Counting
If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you might be thinking “Okay, but my child is going to go to kindergarten (or perhaps even to pre-K). Why do I have to be the one to teach him numbers and counting? Won’t they do it there – and then he will be bored?”
Yes, but teaching your child to count is a great way to improve his readiness for other math concepts, like subtraction and addition. The earlier you start with these tasks, the better a grasp your child will have on mathematics when he does get to school.
Many parents start teaching numbers and counting early and subconsciously, without even realizing it. How many times have you asked a kid how old he is and he’s held up the correct number of fingers? That’s counting and numbers, my friend!
Teaching counting and numbers doesn’t have to be formal, rigid, or fancy in any way. You can incorporate these strategies as authentically as you’d like. The key here is to keep teaching activities fun, carefree, and impactful.
Don’t push or scold your child – not only will this make it harder for our child to learn, but it will cause anxiety. Kids develop at their own rates, after all!
Remember to be patient and try to model early number concepts and counting early on. Let your child count with you and keep lessons short.
Simply look for opportunities to sneak in little lessons whenever you can. Kids have short attention spans, so you need to be creative in finding new opportunities.
How to Teach Numbers & Counting: 22 Easy Tips
Are you ready to teach your child how to count and remember his or her numbers? If so, you can start with these simple tips. Many are age-specific, but some can be used with kids of all ages!
1. Counting Cards
Easy to make, and fun to look at. All you have to do is get some construction paper or cardstock, cut out some images (mine are carrots) and make your own counting cards.
Sit your little one downm and show him the “1” card. Say, “This is one. One carrot. How many carrots are there?”
Have your child repeat after you, “One.” Then praise him, “Good!! One!”
If you lose your child’s attention after only one card, don’t worry about it. You can only teach the numbers one at a time, and you got one in, so that’s a start!
Little ones, especially boys, have very short attention spans. Don’t push it. I’d suggest doing the same thing the next day, and if he will sit longer, then go to number 2.
If you can get your child to sit through number three, stop there. Make sure that he is able to count the pictures on the cards up to three before you introduce more cards.
Ask him, “Where is one?” He should be able to point to the card showing one. “Where are the two?” He should be able to point out two. Do the same for three. When he is able to distinguish which card represents which number, you are ready to move on.
Keep doing the lessons like this until he can count the pictures by himself. He will learn to sit longer each time, especially if you make it interesting.
2. Number Puzzles
Puzzles are great. I got this one from the dollar store.
To use a puzzle for lessons, sit down with your child and play with him and the toy. Tell him the name of each number that he is putting back. Have him repeat the numbers after you.
Take the numbers and play with them, giving them funny voices and talking to your child with them. (Deep voice) “Hi, I”m six! I have a big belly! What’s your name?” Be silly, he’ll love it!
3. Counting Bears & Chips
I think I got these at Walmart. They are a fun way to have your child learn to count quantities. Really you can do this with anything from around the house! Just set them in front of your child and help him count them. Start with a small amount, and work your way up as he learns.
4. Number Toys
I found these at a yard sale. I like to give them all different, silly voices and use them to tell my child what the number’s “name” is and describe it a little. Then I will sit them in front of my child and ask him to point out a few numbers.
Flashcards with numbers on one side and pictures on the other side are always fun.
I like to sit my child down, show him the number, and tell him what it is, then turn it over and count how many objects are on the other side. It’s always like a reward for them to see what picture is hiding on the back.
Once you get through a few numbers, review by asking your child to point to certain numbers, “Okay, where are the three?” Child points to the three. “Good job! That is the three!”
“Where are the two?” Child points to the wrong card. “Uh-oh! You’re close! That’s the one, where are the two?” Help him if he can’t find it. Then give lots of praise!
Books about numbers and those which encourage counting are a great addition to lesson time! Kids love looking at books, and won’t even realize they are learning too. Mine happen to be in Spanish, but these two books are good ones, and you can also find their English versions.
7. Dot Patterns
You can easily make cards like these for a dot pattern matching game.
First, put out the number one card, it’s matching dot pattern card, the number two card and it’s matching dot pattern card. Have your child match the number cards with their corresponding dot pattern cards.
Once he is able to do that, add more cards for him to match. Encourage him to count the dots on the dot pattern cards and find the corresponding number.
8. Smart Snacks Counting Cookies
We LOVE this toy! Playing with these and your child is a great way to reinforce learning numbers and counting. (You can find them on Amazon, or Toys R Us.)
Pretend that you are starving, and you’d like to eat some cookies. Tell your child, “I’m so hungry! Can I please have the number two to eat?” If your child hands you the correct cookie, pretend to devour it.
If your child hands you the wrong cookie, act disgusted, or pretend to cry, and ask again for the number two. Do this until they get it right. Kids always think it’s funny to see you acting so dramatically!
9. Educational Placemats
You can get these at Walmart for really cheap. Even meal time can become a learning experience if you have the right mindset!
You can even have your child count out his snacks. Or ask him if he wants one or two? Using numbers and counting during snack time is another fun way to have a lesson in disguise!
10. Floor Tiles
I found some of these for really cheap at a yard sale, but you can also get them from Amazon, or maybe Toys R Us.
I like to link them together in numerical order in a hop-scotch style. Then I play hopscotch with the kids, naming the numbers I land on as I go. Encourage your child to do the same. You can also have them hop on certain numbers as you call them out.
11. Counting Songs
- One Two Three, Jesus Loves Me
- Ten Little Indians
- 5 Little Ducks (went out to play)
- This Old Man (he played one)
- Five Little Monkeys
12. Try Number Nursery Rhymes
Rhyming activities, stories, and games are great for little ones of all ages. Not only do they teach repetition and vocabulary skills, but they can also help you teach numbers.
Start with simple number rhymes when your child is young – things like “One Two Buckle My Shoe” and “Ten Green Bottles” are great examples.
13. Talk About Numbers
One of the easiest and most authentic ways to teach your child how to count is to incorporate it in your daily routine.
When you’re grocery shopping, say, “Ok, I’m going to add five oranges to the cart. One, two, three, four, five.”
Make learning numbers fun, enjoyable, and playful – this is what will make it memorable!
14. Get Other Kids Involved
One of the reasons why it is sometimes easier for kids to pick up new skills once they start going to school is that they learn best when they’re around their peers.
Because of this, you may experience some success when getting other kids involved in the numbers game.
Encourage healthy competition by offering prizes to winners, or don’t – however you choose to go about it, this is a wonderful way to get your child to learn how to count.
15. Write Them Down and Draw
Write down a few numbers in a drawing book, then have your child draw something that shows that quantity. For example, if you write five, you could ask your child to draw five dogs.
16. Point Numbers Out on Cars
This is a great way to teach your child how to count and to keep him entertained on a long road trip – way to kill two birds with one stone!
Point numbers out on cars (or billboards or buildings you pass by, even), and help your child learn how to recognize the numbers by sight. It will be helpful later on, when he starts writing numbers.
Another fun road trip game with counting is simple to count cars of a particular color while on the road – it could also be trucks, vans, tractors, whatever your child is interested in!
17. Connect the Dots
This is a fun way to teach the order of numbers, something that’s essential when it comes to counting.
On a chalkboard, whiteboard, or drawing pad on an easel, draw a shape with numbers dots. Help your child connect the dots to draw the shape.
Bonus points if you’re teaching your child shapes in the process!
18. Count Fingers and Toes
Again, this is a counting activity that can be done even with the youngest of children. Make your child count the fingers on one hand and toes on the foot.
19. Go on a Hunt for Numbers
Create a scavenger hunt for numbers with your child – make a list of a certain number of items (such as five ladybugs, four paper towel rolls, three pieces of fruit, etc) that your child has to find.
This is a great way to keep them entertained on a rainy day, and help them learn their numbers all at the same time!
20. Stack Boxes
If your kids are like most, they like stacking boxes up to see how high they can go. Make them count as they do this! You can also do this activity with a basic set of blocks.
21. Count Objects Around the House
Again, this is another great way to help burn up some extra energy on a rainy day while learning numbers and counting at the same time. Have your child count up objects around the house.
For example, how many doors do you have? How many windows? How many chairs? You might not ever really need this information, but if you phrase it as a special task you need your child to help you with, it will be far easier to get them on board!
22. Play With Your Food
Kids are extremely food-motivated – aren’t we all? Teach numbers and counting by putting out several types of snacks in varying quantities. Have your children count the snacks until they’re all gone.
Mix Things Up for Best Results!
Remember, mixing up the number activities keeps it interesting. Whatever you do, have fun! And if your child loses interest quickly, and you can’t get his attention back, that’s okay! A little at a time goes a long way.
Just dedicate a few minutes each day, and in no time your child will know his numbers, and be able to count to ten and beyond! You can also use these lessons for teaching numbers in Spanish…
If you have any creative tips for teaching numbers, I’d love to hear what you do in your home!
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).