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5 Easy Ways to Teach Preschool Kids How to Count

by Vannessa Rhoades 20 Oct 2022
5 Easy Ways to Teach Preschool Kids How to Count

While kindergarten or first grade is the time when most schools begin to formally teach children how to count, parents and caregivers can certainly give their little ones a head start. Learning counting skills at an early age provides your child with a solid basis for learning more complex math concepts at school. Teaching a child to count can be simple and enjoyable and may even help your little one develop a love for numbers. By as early as one year old, you can begin modeling how to count.

Advantages of Teaching Kids to Count

Teaching kids to count involves more than simply coaching them how to recite the numbers one to ten. It involves helping children understand the meaning of numbers. Teaching preschoolers to actually count numbers—not just memorize and repeat them—will better prepare them for success in math once they start school, according to research from the University of Missouri.

The more experience children have with counting, the more they will truly comprehend the meaning of the numbers. Understanding the meaning of numbers takes experience with counting lots of things. Parents and caregivers can help by providing children with this experience on a regular basis.

Counting gives a children more robust foundation when they begin school. The skills kids have when they enter kindergarten help set the course for their future success throughout early elementary school. For this reason, teaching children how to count and other skills as early as possible is tremendously advantageous.

How Children Learn Counting

Children begin as pre-counters, talking about numbers in no special order. For instance, they may say “One, two, seven” when counting. This is characteristic of a two-year-old child. When your child does this, model by counting the objects again with them. Avoid correcting their first attempt. They will hear you do it the correct way and eventually learn the correct order. For any little one, shaming or rebuking is ineffective for learning new skills. Learning to count is no different.

During the next phase of learning, children are chanters, saying numbers in the proper order but running them together. A child who starts counting may have to start over completely if interrupted instead of picking up where they stopped. Eventually, they become reciters and can count to different targets (up to 5, up to 10, etc.).

By the time a child is ready for preschool, around three or four years old, they begin to engage in a more advanced level of math called one-to-one correspondence. At this stage, they can point to objects and count them at the same time. For example, if your child has a few blocks in front of them, put the blocks in a straight line and have your preschooler point to or tap each block as they count. 

Tips for Teaching Preschoolers to Count

There are a variety of ways to teach counting and number concepts to children. Play and pleasant interaction are the most significant components of teaching and learning at this stage. Try to sneak the learning in at teachable moments during playtime instead of making the lesson the entire focus of the interaction.

1. Model counting strategies by slowly pointing to each object and saying the number name.

For preschoolers, you can practice counting with a variety of toys. Stuffed animals, stacking rings, and blocks are good toys to start with. 

The Hape ABC Wooden Stacking Blocks Set combines education and entertainment to provide children with a simple way to practice their ABCs, 123s, and more. These best-selling, innovatively designed blocks feature words, letters, pictures, and numbers painted in bright colors to inspire little builders to stack higher while teaching them to read and count.


2. Engage in age-appropriate math talk.

Try discussing simple addition problems—such as “I wonder what two plus two is.” Give your child time to ponder and figure it out.  The key here is to have a conversation, not simply engage in a 60-second lightning round of Qs and As. Preschoolers need time to figure out the problem on their own. The goal of math talk is to keep the child talking.

3. Look for opportunities to count or add. 

Count the number of coins in your pocket or ducks at the park or the number of stairs you walk up. Once children are able to add, look for opportunities to allow them to do this. In the kitchen, you might say, “I have one egg, but I need one more for this recipe. How many eggs does that make?”

4. Play games that integrate counting.

Games are a great way to sneak in counting practice without overdoing it. As your child does this activity, they are reinforcing counting skills and building the mental skills necessary to learn to add.

Teach counting with EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS Shelby's Snack Shack Game! This preschool counting bone-anza is a summer day trip to a dog beach! Shelby buried bones in the sand and needs your help collecting them. Help her dig up the most bones, and you win! Kids take turns using the adorable Shelby Squeezer to fill their dog bowl with bones while they practice early counting and number skills.


5. Sing songs and read books about numbers.

Preschoolers have short attention spans, so be creative in finding opportunities without exhausting your child's interest. Favorite number songs, like “5 Little Speckled Frogs” or “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” and counting books are another fun way to introduce your child to numbers.

Counting to ten in ten languages is made easy with this global snapshot of the Big Apple. Featuring the numbers in the 10 most common languages spoken in New York City--including English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi-- One to Ten NYC captures the most iconic images of the most diverse city in the world. This board book has charming images that pair with rhythmic text and big bold numbers to take the readers on a counting trip though the "City That Never Sleeps."


The Takeaway

Remember that modeling, math talk, and play are the most important parts of introducing numbers to your child. Try not to get discouraged if they don’t immediately understand. Simply continue to engage in these activities regularly, and keep it fun and carefree. Eventually, your little one will begin to learn and demonstrate understanding.

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