Support Early Counting

Support Early Counting


The world around them

As your little one grows, they are working hard to figure out how the world works. Skillfully exposing them to the foundations of all academic areas will support them as they work to unravel the mysteries of the world around them. As you introduce skills or ideas, watch for their interest. You will know they are ready to learn because they will respond with interest and joy.  

Early counting support

Toddlers are amazing people, and your little one is likely picking up many things about counting and numbers all on their own. Learning that the number words correlate with amounts is a big step and an important “pre-math” skill. We can help them absorb this information by counting out loud, often and clearly.  

Clear counting

When you see your child showing interest in counting, create a simple invitation to count for them. Place a bowl with 5 identical objects in it on your toy shelf. We have bowls and counters in our library, as well as many toys that have countable components. Your child might play with these in an open ended way, or they might count them. To introduce the counting work, take the bowl from the shelf and, dump all the counters out of the bowl.  Slowly place one counter in the bowl at a time saying the correct number word at the same moment of the action for each counter.  

Let’s say you choose to say the number the moment the counter touches the bowl.  Wait and say the next number when that counter is at the same moment of being placed in the bowl. This simple thing is the magic that helps your child understand what the heck all those number words are about. You can count the items out of the bowl or into the bowl, it does not matter. If the object is the right size, you can also count the items into and out of your child’s hand. What matters most is that you are consistent about when you say the number word.  

Your child may or may not start counting with you, but they are learning! It is great when they start to use the number words, but even more importantly they are learning the concept of counting.

What comes next

If your child is loving this work, and has been counting 1-5 successfully, move up to placing 10 counters in the bowl. Repeat the same activity as above, making sure to use the magic one to one method.  To promote ongoing interest and practice, rotate the items you place in the bowl every week or so. Some suggestions are: erasers, pencils, socks, clips or dominoes.  Get creative, and watch out for choking hazards. 

Count actions

Counting things that aren’t things is very abstract AND it can be really fun!  Once you’ve been counting concrete things for a while, you can start counting actions. Model this kind of counting by picking an action and counting it one to one. 


Let’s say you pick jumping.  Say your number word at the same time in the action every time. Will you count right before you jump? When you land?  In midair?  It doesn’t matter. Just be consistent! Other things to count: Claps, stomps, spins, push ups or steps. If your child joins in do not worry that their action won’t match up with your counting perfectly. Just keep your own counting clear!


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