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teaching kids math

Teaching Toddlers Numbers: Let Me Count the Ways

Kids are naturally curious and will pick up all kinds of information in their normal, everyday lives.  That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t give them a boost along the way.  For example, when it comes to helping children learn about numbers, there are lots of ways we can help build a foundation for the math concepts they’ll soon learn at school.  The key is to keep it fun.

  1. Play Follow-the-Leader
    Have your child imitate what you do.  Mommy’s going to hit the drum once, then you hit it once.  Good!  Now I’ll hit it two times, and you hit it two times.  Continue to ten, assuming it remains fun for your child.  If she’s still enjoying the game when you get to ten, then work your way back down to one.
  2. Sing Songs
    There are plenty of great songs that teach kids about numbers.  Work these into your repertoire.  Every time your child sings “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” or “Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day,” he’ll gain a deeper understanding of how numbers work.  (I don’t recommend “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall—not so much because it might encourage underage drinking, but because of how annoying the seemingly never-ending song can become.)
  3. Use textures
    Have your child fingerpaint numbers in pudding, or have him use a stick in the sand to trace out numbers.  Anything that allows him to practice writing numbers in novel ways will engrain the practice in his mind.    
  4. Connect Numbers to their Interests
    One boy I know is obsessed with Noah’s Ark.  His playsets offer all kinds of opportunities for counting different animals—and then learning to count two-by-two.  The same goes for dolls, cars, bubbles, baseball games, and practically anything else.  
  5. Count During Activities
    Whenever you think of it, let your child hear you count—and have her count along with you.  Count when you’re pushing her on the swing, when she’s brushing her teeth, when she’s taking steps between the car and the school building. 
  6. Sense Numbers
    While you’re teaching about numbers, teach about the senses as well.  Have your child close his eyes then listen to you clap or snap.  Quiz him on how many he hears.  Or tap his leg and have him count the taps.
  7. Count with the Body
    Teach numbers with activity.  Have your child jump four times, or run back and forth to the fence twice.  Or, play a game where you put out a set of numbers written on pieces of paper, and your child has to run to find the number you name and bring it back to you.
  8. Count with Food

Use mealtimes to teach concepts like more, less, and equal.  Count the number of blueberries or peas on the plate, or chairs at the table.  Again, make sure to make this fun; your child shouldn’t feel like she has to sing for her supper.


Numbers are everywhere.  By repeatedly pointing to them, we help kids seem them and understand them in ways that will form the foundation for future knowledge.


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