Kids all grow at different speeds, so if your toddler already knows how to count, that’s great! However, you can always help them develop the skill and build a foundation for more complex math later with fun counting activities for toddlers.
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#1 Counting Fingers and Toes and Learning Body Parts
It sounds relatively basic, but learning how to count starts with some of the most simple ideas. When my kids were babies, counting fingers and toes was not only a fun and exciting activity, but it helped them learn body parts, too.
Not only will counting fingers and toes help them learn their numbers, but it can build the foundation for understanding that they have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Plus, they can begin to see, visually, just how many objects it takes to get to those numbers.
And when you’re done, a little toe tickling never hurt anyone, either!
#2 Counting Toys is a Fun Game
If your toddler has a favorite toy, it’s likely they have more than one of them. I can’t count on two hands the number of cars, trucks, trains, dinosaurs, dolls, Legos, and other small toys we have lying around the house.
After a fast and furious game of racing, have your child count the number of cars they were just playing with. Sometimes, I make them count before we even start. For more advanced toddlers, you can challenge them to get an even number of toys and divide them up equally among the two of you.
#3 Playing Board Games is Interactive
While Candyland is great for learning colors, there are plenty of board games that are great for learning numbers. A family favorite at our house is Sorry! No only is it a blast to bump people back to start, but it helps with number recognition.
Before my kids could read, they could recognize the numbers on the Sorry! cards and count out the correct number of spaces. It can be difficult for little ones, but it’s a great exercise for older toddlers.
Believe me, this is good family fun that’s worth the cost, even when your kids are way older.
#4 Playing Cards is Challenging
War is a tried and true game for all ages. It’s also a fantastic choice for number recognition and understanding sequence. War involves deciding who got the higher number, so knowing numbers and where they fall in sequence is a must.
If your child isn’t quite that advanced, it’s still a super fun, hands-on way for them to count with something tangible. The best part is you probably already have them lying around the house. You don’t have to buy or make anything new.
#5 DIY Counting Sticks Can Also Help Develop Fine Motor Skills
If you do have the chops to make your own crafts, you’ll need a stockpile of paper clips for this one. Glue long, skinny magnet strips on popsicle sticks and write numbers at the bottom of each, going as high as you’d like.
For younger toddlers, 1-10 may be enough while older toddlers can go as high as 15 or 20 if they’re learning rapidly and ready to progress.
Color or decorate them in any way you choose, and then have your toddler put paper clips on the magnets of each stick according to the number at the bottom.
Not only are they learning to count, but they’re learning to recognize how many of an item that number looks like and they’re using their fine motor skills to pick up paper clips and put them on the magnet.
#6 Use Snack Time as a Learning Opportunity
Most snacks offer a great opportunity to learn to count. Whether it’s trail mix, crackers, or another snack time favorite, make sure you engage your child in figuring out just how many they’re going to eat.
You can start by asking your child how many they want. They may only say two or three. Help them count out two or three, allow them to see just how many that is, and then ask them if they think that’s too much or not enough.
Let their answers guide you. Of course, they’ll likely ask for more. For older toddlers, this is a great opportunity to practice some addition. How many more? How many does that make?
For younger children, it’s another opportunity to count again, and get more snacks! If you’re doling out prepackaged snacks, have them open the bag and count out how many were in it.
#7 Physical Exercise Keeps a Healthy Mind and Body
Want to wear your child out? If your answer is no, are you even a parent? Learning counting can engage the body as well as the mind. In times of complete exhaustion, when I just want to make sure my kids will go to sleep at night, I make them work for it.
Ask your child how many jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups, or laps around the living room they can do. You can choose anything you want, or let your child choose their favorite physical exercise themselves.
Then have them do it. Sometimes they’ll pick way more than they can actually do. In cases like this, I will ask the older ones to figure out how many more they would have to do to reach their goal. You could even ask them how much longer you think it would take them.
If they reach their goal without breaking a sweat, ask how many more they think they can do, make the older ones add, and have the younger ones count them off starting over at 1. It’s a great way to make sure everyone stays healthy.
#8 Singing Songs for Bonding
Our family loves to sing together. We don’t exactly sound like the church choir, but it’s one of our favorite ways to bond and spend time together. When it comes to learning, singing is one of the best ways to engage your memory.
If you’re struggling to remember something, make a song about it. That’s why there are so many songs for toddlers learning to count. Can’t think of one? Here are a few:
- Sally the Camel
- 99 Bottles of Coke on the Wall
- One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
- The Ants Go Marching
- 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
- Five Little Speckled Frogs
- Five Little Ducks
#9 Rolling Dice is a Sensory Treat
If you want to combine counting with a treat for the eyes and ears, invest in a set of dice. In fact, Yahtzee is a great game for the older kids, but you can use the dice to teach the little ones to count.
Have them roll the dice on different surfaces to see which noise they like the best, but make sure before they pick them up again that they count the dots of the face of each one. Older toddlers can begin to add this way, too.
#10 Play Dominos for Matching Fun
Kids of all ages can learn to play dominos. Not only do colorful sets offer a fun visual experience, but you’ll find that they have to exercise their counting skills in a number of ways to play.
Counting out how many dominos everyone gets to start is a great way to give little fingers something chunky and tangible to hold. Once they get the hang of how to play, there’s a lot of counting dots and matching them up when it’s your turn.
#11 Get Messy with Sand or Dough
If you’re working on number recognition and writing, it can be fun for kids to draw it out in sand or dough and then erase it and start over. It might be a messier activity, but if you’re up for it, it’s always a fun time.
Pick a number and have them form the number with their tools. Or you can make the number and have them guess what it is. When you’re done, make time for building or drawing fun stuff, too.
#12 Create a Scavenger Hunt for a Bit of Mystery
Kids love finding things. Create a scavenger hunt or make a treasure map and see if your child can find the numbers. It’s a great way to make a game out of learning and encourage number recognition.
Make it as easy or as hard as you like, and throw in little rewards here and there for encouragement.
You can even spice things up by hiding a certain number of items rather than a written number. For example, “X marks the spot where you will find 5 toy cars.” See if your child can count what they find and match it up with the number on their map.
#13 Fill Empty Plastic Bottles for More Fine Motor Skill Exercise
Label empty plastic water bottles with numbers and have your child drop the corresponding number of items into the bottle. You can use pom poms, candy, paper clips, or anything else small enough to fit through the opening.
Bonus points if the items make a satisfying noise as they hit the bottom. Dump them out and try again when you’re done.
#14 Play Hopscotch
The great thing about hopscotch is that you can make the playing field as big or as small as you want. It’s another great way to spend time outside, get some exercise, and learn to count all at the same time.
Make it more challenging by having your child skip certain numbers along the way, or do the course backwards to learn to count down.
#15 Color by Number or Connect the Dots
Preschool activity books are filled with counting activities like these. Color by number is awesome for learning both numbers and colors while connecting the dots encourages more precise control over a writing utensil.
These are great ways to engage in learning in a more creative way, and there are plenty of free resources online for delivering hours of fun.
Did you enjoy our list of counting activities for toddlers! I hope so, because these have all proven very effective for me and my kids in the past.
Applying any of the tips on this list will have your child counting in no time, and hopefully having a lot of fun doing it. It will help build a foundation for higher counting and math later on.
If you have other great ways to teach your child to count, throw them in the comments below. We’d love to hear them! As always, share this list if you loved it so everyone can benefit from these ideas!