Learning numbers in preschool is a continual process of hands-on experiences and opportunities for real life counting. As kids are counting numbers they are learning many important skills. This collection of preschool number activities will give you a terrific springboard for helping preschoolers learn numbers.
Tips for Helping Kids Learn About Counting Numbers
Although counting may seem like a relatively simple process, there are actually a lot of steps to learning to count.
For starters children have to learn and memorize the numerical sequence for rote counting so they know the numbers to say as they count a set of objects.
They also need to understand one-to-one correspondence and be able to touch one object for each number they are saying as they count a set.
As they begin to count sets kids also need to learn that the set represents a quantity, and the last number they say when they are counting the objects in a set corresponds to that quantity. This is know as quantification.
And they must also recognize that if we add or remove an object from the set this changes the quantity, so we must count carefully and count again if we change the objects in the set.
Finally they must learn to recognize the written format of numbers and connect that concept to their rote counting and other knowledge about counting numbers.
As you can see it’s much more complicated than it seems on the surface, but we make it easier and more meaningful when we provide kids with a lot of hands-on counting opportunities throughout their learning and play.
For additional information about teaching numbers in preschool, visit these great teaching resource books.
Preschool Number Activities
Below are some tools that work well for a wide variety of number activities.
This list of DIY math manipulatives is also very helpful.
Hands-on Number Activities without Printables
There are so many hands-on ways to help kids who are learning numbers and counting.
We can practice counting throughout the day in many ways:
- as we wait for something
- as we prepare snacks and meals
- as we gather objects
- as we sing songs
- as we take steps
On Fantastic Fun and Learning we’ve also shared many fun hands-on ideas for counting numbers. The options in this first section are all done without printables. If you’re looking for some free printables to help kids learning to count, I’ve added those in the next section.
In this listen and spray counting game, little learners listen for a number to be called and then spray it that many times with a spray bottle. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers!
Wiggle to 1. Tiptoe to 2. Have fun with alliteration, and get kids up and moving with this fun counting game that emphasizes number recognition.
Tea anyone? During our tea time theme we practice counting and comparing tea packets.
Set up a caterpillar sensory bin. Then use it for a variety of caterpillar counting activities.
Continue the spring sensory fun with a counting seeds gardening sensory bin.
Use play dough and number stamps to create a counting garden.
Or head outdoors with some chalk to create your own sidewalk chalk counting garden.
Race to get the gold in this rainbow counting game.
Count Rainbow Fish’s beautiful scales in this play dough Rainbow Fish counting activity inspired by Marcus Pfister’s popular book.
Make your own pumpkin faces with this fall pumpkin counting activity.
Turn old egg cartons into a fun counting activity with these bat number matching sets.
Create and count antlers for this reindeer counting game.
Feed the reindeer in this reindeer counting pretend play activity.
Help the penguins cross the ice in this winter counting sensory bin.
Printables for Counting Numbers and Sets
On Fantastic Fun and Learning we also have a lot of free printables that give kids the opportunity to practice counting and number recognition. Some of them are nonseasonal and can be done any time of year. While others are more seasonal in nature. Many are also from our preschool lesson plans, as we prefer to include a wide range of skills and activities in each thematic unit.
With these dinosaur play dough mats, kids practice creating sets to match a specific number.
Exercise those fine motor muscles as you match the correct number of caterpillar “eggs” to leaves.
Use these rain theme counting cards to count out objects in a rainy day sensory bin.
Or have some creepy crawly fun counting worms in this spring sensory bin activity.
Grab some beach theme manipulatives and practice counting with these beach counting mats.
Count out snowballs to match the numbered snowmen in this winter counting activity.
Create your own printable book to read over and over again with this snowflake counting book.
Have fun creating your own play dough “chocolates” in this chocolate box counting activity.
Practice number recognition and sequencing 1-20 in this Valentine Scavenger Hunt.
Use this number scavenger hunt to help kids learn to read and write numbers to 20.
Use our roll and color math games to practice counting numbers and sets. There are a wide variety of options to choose throughout the year.
Printables for Teaching Different Ways to Represent Numbers
As kids become more comfortable creating sets of objects and recognizing numerals, we can extend their learning by introducing additonal ways to represent numbers.
The following printables are helpful for introducing this concept.
More Resources for Learning Numbers
Counting books are an excellent resource for learning numbers. Kids enjoy reading many of them over and over again. Here is a list of our favorite counting books for kids.
There are also more ideas for counting numbers in this collection of counting games.
The counting games and puzzles below are kid-tested and teacher approved.
As kids become proficient at counting numbers we can continue helping them develop number sense by:
- working on concepts like one more and one less
- comparing amounts
- beginning to add and subtract