Counting with understanding involves three separate skills.

  1. Rote counting- memorizing a sequence of words
  2. One-to-one correspondence- matching number names with objects in a set
  3. Number Conservation- realizing and understanding that if an arrangement of a set changes, the number (quantity) remains the same.

Development of mastery in these skills will be realized, when they are given repeated opportunities to count sets of objects.  The experiences will help understand the link between rote counting, one-to-one, and conservation.

Skills introduced:
One-to-one correspondence
Find the number before, after, and between
Count to 100 by ones, fives, and tens
Skip count by twos.
Compare sets to be equal or unequal
Count backwards from 20.

For preschool children, remember what is developmentally appropriate.  Rote counting every day will result in your child memorizing the sequence.  If you take off for a week or longer, do not expect your child to remember the rote.  While a few will remember, most children do not have memories developed enough to recall what was memorized everyday, for even a year.

An example of this in my own experience:  I would have three and four year olds in preschool.  We had two schools in our system.  Those children who were with me every day for their three year old year and some who were with me for three and four year old years, who went to the other school in the system for their four year old preschool or kindergarten, did not remember me or daily routines after a few months.  They did remember special events.  Those who stayed in our school and saw me everyday remembered who I was, and could sometimes remember much less significant events.

Most of you who home school, will experience this after a summer break.  You teach your three year old all year and when you start back in the fall, you realize they don’t remember.  I have seen many moms of young children quite frustrated when starting back in the routine because they were worried that something was wrong with their child.  Relax, nothing is wrong, you have a normally developing child!!

Provide opportunities for counting throughout the day.  Your child can even count silverware while helping set the table.  Setting the table is a great one-to-one correspondence activity.  Now for other activities:

  1. Counting Objects:  Give your child a collection of objects: pennies, large stringing beads, legos, etc.  This activity teaches rote counting and one-on-one correspondence.  Have your child count the pennies as they drop them into a plastic tub or bank, or string beads on a shoe string, etc.
  2. Cotton Ball Count:  Using a bag of cotton balls, have your child count.  On index cards write numbers 0-10 or 0-20, depending on the numbers being taught.  You child will place the correct number of cotton balls on each card.
  3. Count to Music: Play music and begin counting to the beat and add movement instructions.  After a beat is established, you may say, “Tap your toes 10 times.” And count to 10 while tapping to the beat of the music.
  4. Leaf Count: This is great for fall.  Draw a large brown tree on a piece of poster board or butcher paper.  Go outdoors and gather leaves.  Come back in and count leaves as you glue them to the tree.
  5. The Count Continues: Write numbers 1-9 on index cards. If your child is counting higher, add numbers as needed.  Put the cards in a bag or hat.  Your child reaches in and pulls out a number and counts from that number.  For kinesthetic learners, add movements as they count.
  6. Egg Carton Counters.  Punch holes in the bottom of each egg cup.  Close the lid and turn the carton upside down.  Using straws or stick-type clothes pins, have your child put one in each hole, counting as she goes.
  7. Skip the Beans: This is an activity using a bag of dry beans and small cups. Cupcake liners work great for this activity.  Have your child count 10 beans into every cup.  Start with 10 cups (or more, it is totally up to you).  Demonstrate counting by 10’s with your child.  After the cups are full, count by 10s to see how many beans have been separated out.  This activity can be repeated with 5s.
  8. Counting Sets: Cut giant numbers out of poster board.  Your child will glue sets of the number to each giant shape.  For example.  Cut a giant three.  Your child will glue three beans, three paper clips, three leaves, three cotton balls, three macaroni, etc.
  9. Number Line March:  If you have room, use a piece of masking tape or duct tape on the floor, driveway, or sidewalk, and make a number line.  Have your child walk the line counting by ones, then have them skip odd numbers to count by 2s.
  10. Counting Fishing Game: Cut 10 small fish shapes out of plastic foam meat trays or milk cartons.  Attach a metal paperclip to the mouth end of the fish.  Float the fish is a kiddie pool or a tub of water.  For a fishing line, tie a magnet to the end of a string.  Let your child fish and count the fish as she catches them.  You can also put numbers on the fish and your child will tell you the number on the fish.  Variation: Cut two sets of fish.  Program one set with dots and one with matching numbers.  When your child catches a fish with dots or a number, she must catch the “matching fish.”
  11. It’s Your Turn: Count, volleying back and forth with your child.  If you have two children, this is great for them to do.  They children simply take turns counting.  I would say, “One.” My child would say, “Two.” Keep going as far as possible.  This activity is great to do with skip counting, too.  You can also jump while saying the number.
  12. Wing Match: For this activity, you will need empty toilet paper rolls.  One for each number you want to re-enforce.  Write a number on each tube and cut a slit, about three inches long on each side of the tube.  Cut out butterfly wings or long ovals for airplane wings, and draw dots on the wings to match the tubes.  Your child will slide the correct wings with the body to make a butterfly or airplane.  This is also a good lesson to teach symmetry.  If your child can get confused with the double number of dots, you may want to close the wings so only one side is showing when your child is counting dots.   It will look similar to this:
  13. airplane counterbutterfly count
  1. Backward and Forward: This is a neat counting practice with your child.  Instruct your child that he will count and when you turn around, he will count backwards from where he is, when you face him again, he will begin counting forward from where he is.  Keep this up for a few minutes.
  2. Pyramid Cards: Play pyramid card games that cards are played one number up or one number down.
  3. Calendar Cut and Count: Use old calendars and let your child cut apart the numbers and glue them to strips of paper or adding machine tape in order.  They do not have to cut each individual number, but can also cut strips of numbers.
  4. Make Matching Games:  I am giving you this Counting Bees Game. Simply print, color, laminate for durability, and cut.  Your child matches the number with the stripes or dots.
  5. One-to-One: To help re-enforce the idea of one to one correspondence, let your child give out things in your home.  Setting the table, giving out cookies, one piece of ice in each glass, one napkin, etc.
  6. Number Cans: Make number cans by using empty juice cans.  Wrap a piece of colorful paper around each can and draw dots on one side and write the corresponding number on the other side.  Let your child count the number of dots and put one craft stick per dot, in the can.  If your child has started to recognize numbers, use the written number side to do the same activity.
  7. Dominoes: Play dominoes with your child.  This is a great one-to-one correspondence activity.
  8. What is Missing?  Fill in a number grid with numbers and leave some out.  Your child will place number cards for the missing numbers.  If your child is writing, numbers can be written in.  An example:













  1. What Is My Number: Have a set of manipulatives (beans, rocks, shells, beads, paper clips, etc) up to 20.  On index cards, write numbers through 20.  Show your child a card and have them count that number of objects.
  2. Number Bag Match: This is a skill-rich activity that can be used over and over and grow with your child, during the early years. This is “Lunch Bag Math Book”! You can choose to do the writing on the bags, or allow your child to do the writing.

You will need:
3-10 lunch bags, depending on the numbers with which your child is working.
Small items (buttons, paper clips, small rocks, etc)
Velcro (optional)
1. Write the number 1 on the end of the bag.
2. Fold the bottom over to make a flap.
3. Inside the flap draw one dot.
4. Beside the flap write the number word “one”
5. On the top corner of the fold, punch a hole.
6. Repeat this on each bag, changing the number.
7. Collect the bags onto a hinged book ring.
Encourage your child to put the correct number of items into the bags. This will help practice one-to-one correspondence, recognize numbers 1-10, recognize number words, and see a pictorial (dots) representation of that number.
I like to put a small piece of Velcro on the fold to keep the flap closed.

lunch sack math 2 lunch sack math

  1. Match My Number: In this activity, you show a set of objects (up to 20) and your child pulls out the correct number card.  Ask questions like, “What number would be one more (less)?”
  2. Number Conservation Assessment:  Holding five objects in your hand (milk tops or small blocks work fine), show the objects to your child.  Say, “I am holding five objects.”  Put some of the objects in your other hand, but do not hide them, and ask, “Now, how many objects am I holding?”  The total number has not changed, only the group arrangement.  If you child needs to count the objects to tell you how many you have, more practice needs to be given to group rearrangement.  Once this concept is mastered, more difficult number skills may be introduces.
  3. Make Number Bracelets: You will need strips of colored paper and dot stickers or self-stick paper re-enforcers.  Have your child write a number in the center of the paper strip and place that many dots on the paper.  Wrap the strip of paper around your child’s wrist and tape together to make a bracelet. For a more Crafty option, use foam numbers and string.  Add the correct number of beads to the bracelet.
  4. Hanger Count:  Using 10 hangers, 10 index cards, and 55 clothes pins.  Label each index card with a number 1-10.  Attach each card to a hanger.  Your child will clip the correct number of clothes pins on each hanger.


  1. Ten Little Indians: Other words can be substituted, depending on your theme. 10 little pumpkins, 10 little cars, 10 little apples)
  2. This Old Man
  3. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
  4. Here is a pumpkin, And here is a pumpkin, And another pumpkin I see. Shall we count them? Are you ready? One, Two, Three! (Traditional Rhyme)
  5. Jack Hartmann (videos available on You Tube) Look for Count To 100 Everyday.  It is a great one!! Another really fun one is Chicken Count.

Gloriwirques Educational Ministries can customize any thematic set of number cards.  Just leave me a message.  Each set will come in black and white and colored to your specifications.  Numbers will be 0-20 and the cost of the custom sets are $8. I will set up a private sale for you  in my Etsy Shop.

This entry was posted in Early Childhood, Education, homeschool, lesson plans, Math, Preschool and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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