Numbers are all around us so when you see numbers at home or when you are out for a walk, talk about them. Children learn number names in order, though counting with an adult or joining in with songs and number rhymes. Count to 20 and then beyond. To help with counting, start to use the phrase ‘Counting finger’ which is their forefinger. Whenever it is time to count, ask them to get out their ‘counting finger’ so that it can help them with their counting.

Stage One

Count, count and more counting! Count all the time: climbing the stairs, playing hide and seek, cars, trees, food …. anything up to 20! Your child isn’t going to be able to count if they aren’t hearing the numbers. When you are counting objects, do it slowly and say one number for each object.

When eating, count the number of carrots on your plate, count the plates on the table, count the trousers in the draw, count the number of cars they have etc. Start to count your fingers and encourage your child to so the same.

Hide and Seek Toys

Children love a game of hide and seek and this game challenges your child to say number names in order, count using one number name for each toy the toys and take turns.

  1. You will need: Small toys to hide and a box, bag or net to put them in.
  2. Ask your child to hide the toys in the room.
  3. You count to 10 and then start to look for the toys.
  4. As you find the toys, place them in your net and count as you do so.
  5. Lastly, take the toys out and count them to check that you have all five toys.
  6. And now it’s your turn to hide the toys and your child’s turn to seek.

Stage Two

Continue to count all the time. Encourage your child to count their fingers by saying one number for each finger. In time, they will be able to hold up 3 fingers without having to count them when you say “Show me 3 fingers”. Continue to do this with numbers to 5.

Encourage your child to count up to 10, using the numbers in the correct order.


The characters from my daughter’s books were hungry so we decided to give them Pom-Bears. Everyone likes Pom-Bears, right?

  1. Have numbers 6-10 written on cards which are in a box.
  2. Give each book character a bun case or small bowl.
  3. Your child pulls out a number from the box and decides which character to give it to.
  4. They then count out Pom-Bears from the plate and place them in the bun case.
  5. Remind them to stop when they get to the number or they will carry on counting.
  6. Repeat with the other book characters.
  7. Challenge: can they move the numbers and bun cases so that they are in the correct order? If they are secure with numbers 6-10, repeat with numbers 11-15.

The highlight is eating the Pom-Bears afterwards and if you are lucky, you might be given one!

Ladybird Spots

During this activity your child will count one number name for each raisin and use the language of more and less.

  1. You will need: A drawn ladybird on a piece of red card, some raisins in a bowl, number cards 1- 10 turned over, more and less signs on paper.
  2. Explain to your child that they are going to place the right number of spots on the ladybird.
  3. Ask them to pick a number. Number 9. Ask them to put on 9 raisins in a line. It is important that you have a lot of raisins in the bowl, so that they can pick them out, counting as they go and when they get to 9 they STOP.
  4. Once they have all 9, ask your child to get out their ‘counting finger’ and count the raisins, using one number name for each raisin and to STOP counting once they reach number 9.
  5. Ask your child to pick another number. Number 4. Repeat the same process with number 4.
  6. Ask your child which side has more. Can they place the ‘more’ sign in the right place? Children understand the concept of ‘more’ before ‘less.’ That means the other side has less. Yes, 4 is less than 9. If they have a secure understanding, you can ask them which one has more and which one has less.
  7. Repeat again with other numbers.
  8. Lastly, eat the raisins!
Finger Painting Dot Counting

This activity is a counting exercise and teaches them to place the dots in a line which makes them easier to count. It is also fantastic for their fine motor as it’s difficult to place your finger in exactly the right place.

  1. You will need: A prepared table like the one in the photo above with the numbers written and space for the dots, paint and an apron.
  2. Ask your child what numbers they can see. Go through all of the numbers, making sure they can recognise them.
  3. Start with 0. How many dots do you need in there? None, that’s right.
  4. Now 1. How many dots will you need? Yes, 1. As your child to choose a colour, place their finger in the paint and dot the number 1.
  5. Reapeat with all of the other numbers, encouraging your child to dot them in a line.
  6. Once they have finished dotting a number, ask them to check it by counting, using their counting finger.

This is a lovely activity invloving creating boats, water play, small world play and maths.

  1. You will need: Some bowls, cut out triangles, cocktail sticks, blu-tack, people, animals, a large tray and water.
  2. Attach the sails to the bowls with blu-tack and write numbers on them.
  3. Place a random number of people and animals inside.
  4. Ask your child to look at the number on the sail and count out that number of people and animals to go in the boat. Have they got the right amount? Check using their counting finger. Remind them to use one number name for each person or animal. When they get to 5 they STOP.
  5. We also discussed that the boats were floating and how the wind was moving the boats along the water. My daughter then played with the people and animals in the boats.
Spaghetti Hair

This is a fun way to count using coloured spaghetti. First you will need to cook some spaghetti.

  1. You will need: Spaghetti that you have already cooked and add some food colouring to it. A face drawn on a piece of card, numbers written on paper, turned over so that you can’t see them.
  2. Ask your child to turn over a number. What number is it? Yes, it’s a 3.
  3. Your child will then place 3 pieces of coloured spaghetti for their hair.
  4. Take off the spaghetti and repeat with other numbers.
  5. What different hairstyles can you create?

Stage Three

Count up to 20 and beyond. When reading, ask your child to count the amount of dogs or trees on the page, using one number name for each object.

Ask your child to guess how many things there are in a bucket and then count them to see how close their guess was.

When counting objects, your child may be able to use one number name for each object.

Coin Counting
  1. Find some coins and a glass.
  2. Ask your child to close their eyes and count the coins.
  3. Slowly drop 12 coins into the glass, one after the other.
  4. Ask them how many coins they counted.
  5. Repeat with other numbers up to 20.

Challenge: Give them a piece of paper and ask them to write down the numbers.

Counting Games for all stages

  • Say a number and your child has to clap, jump or spin that many times. Repeat with other numbers.
  • Have a picnic and decide how many sandwiches, biscuits, grapes to take and count them.
  • Have some number cards turned over. Ask your child to turn one up. What number is it? Can they place that number of blocks on the card? Repeat with other numbers.
  • Have 5 objects and ask them to count them, making sure they are counting one for each.
  • Place 4 blocks next to each other. If you move the objects apart are there still 4? Have I added anymore or taken any away?
  • Make a tower – how many blocks do you have?

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