Around two to two and a half years of age most children will begin reciting some number words in a somewhat ordered counting sequence. In fact, AJ (who is now 2 years, 4 months) currently recites, “One, two, three, four, (generally a pause then) six, nine.” However reciting number words, even in the full and correct order, is not the same as counting meaningfully. Counting meaningfully requires children to apply the cardinal principle – that is, an understanding that the size of a group of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set.
In fact, when we break it down, there are many skills children need to learn in order to count rationally and with meaning (these are not presented in a set order);
1. Classification of objects into groups. For example, “Can you put all of the blue blocks into a pile?”
2. Matching and comparing groups of objects. “Are there more horses or cows?”
3. One to one correspondence. “Can you put one candle on each cake? Are there any left?”
4. Rote counting – reciting the number names in order.
5. Matching number names to objects with one-to-one correspondence – using one number name for each object in the group.
6. Realising that the last number name answers the question, “How many?”
Children who progress well in mathematics, at least in the early years of preschool and school, have a good understanding of the cardinal principle and its application. The most important way parents can support this development (and therefore aid future mathematical success) is through involving young children with regular, meaningful counting of groups (especially for groups of more than three objects).
Making these experiences playful and fun is a great way to engage young children with the process of learning to count, so I have collected together nine great ideas for making early experiences with counting lots of fun for both you and your child.
9 Fun Early Counting Games for Preschoolers
2. Play skittles. Compare and count how many fall down and how many are left standing. My Little Bookcase shares a gorgeous DIY skittle set made from cardboard tubes here.
3. Sort sets of shells or other collectables (plastic lids, wooden blocks, pom poms, straws, etc) and count and compare the sets.
4. Have fun with these simple to make coloured counting tubes from Laughing Kids Learn (number cards optional).
6. Make your very own set of 5 Little Ducks from small rocks. From Red Ted Art.
7. Dig for buried treasure and have fun sorting, comparing and counting your treasures.
8. Make like Goldilocks and compare and count with The Three Bears. Via Learn with Play at Home.
9. This colourful flower game is so easy to make and would be fun for sorting, comparing and counting (again, the number cards are optional depending on what stage your child is at). Via Teaching 2 & 3 Year Olds.
How do you like to count with your kids?
For more playful maths ideas, check out my Maths Fun for Kids Pinterest board…