8 Simple Games That Teach Your Toddler Numbers and Counting


Who loves number games? We do, we do!

Educational boffins generally agree that the best way to approach any area of learning with under fives is through Purposeful Play. And I whole-heartedly agree. We all want a reason to do something – a goal that we are aiming to achieve – so why should children be any different? I think this is why we parents know instinctively that our little ones learn best when we make something into a game or a race. My mum friends are always coming up with brilliant games using bits and bobs from around the house :-).

With this in mind, I’ve come up with a few games that practise:
number recognition
number sequencing
counting with 1-1 correspondence
labelling with numbers

Some of these evolved over time, some came from T, and one or two originated in my fuzzy baby brain. These games are really for young toddlers. There are SO many other games you could try with older children, but I am focusing on the sort of games that work for my 22 month-old. I would say that these are suitable for toddlers who are around 12-30 months. Read on if you want to know the simplest number games we have enjoyed. All of them involve resources mostly found around the house and can be prepped in just a few minutes. I hope you get some use out of them :-).

Wait! Before You Read On…

Here are my Teacher Tips For Success With Number Play:

1. When you start these games, your child will (probably) not know her numbers. So your job is just to encourage her to have a go finding numbers. For example, if she is looking for number 2: if she gets the wrong one, just say “that’s number 1. Where’s number 2?” It’s important not to say things like “no, that’s not right” as this will not only knock her confidence, but won’t give her the right answer.

When she finds the right number, give her lots of praise and reinforce by repeating the word “2” in lots of different ways.

We like “can you put number 2 on your head/feet/tummy/mummy’s head/daddy’s knees?” Etc.

2. Always have a set of number cards 1-10 on the wall to refer to. That way, when you are counting things throughout the day you can easily point to the number to reinforce it. We used to count fruit in the fruit bowl or trains on the track this way. Once your child knows her numbers, she can go and fetch numbers herself. T loves doing this, and it uses up some of that boundless toddler energy!  It doesn’t matter if they get it right every time as a wrong answer means they get to toddle back again!

One More Thing:

I hope this post isn’t too badly written. I expect it is littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. I guess my brain really wants to be concentrating on preparing my hospital bag, dusting off the Moses baskets and practising my breathing techniques (eek!). Anyway, apologies in advance for any glaring errors. Here it is:

8  Games That Teach Your Toddler Numbers & Counting

1. 5 Little Ducks (using foam numbers).


It’s easy-peasy to fit this in without any thought or preparation, as bath time happens every day. Sing the song, but, instead of using your fingers, hold up or point to the numbers. You can also use the numbers to count the ducks, by sticking them above each duck and counting along.

Throw the ducks in, count the splashes, then find the number to match. T LURVES this game :-).

Once your toddler becomes familiar with the order and recognises the numbers, try:
– encouraging your toddler to place them above the ducks himself. You can prompt him by saying which number comes first/next?
– mixing the numbers up and getting him to put them back in the right order

Singing Counting Songs is one of the best ways to teach numbers and counting to young children. But how do you choose which songs to sing? If you haven’t checked it out already, have a look at my list(what I consider to be) the best interactive counting songs and rhymes for babies.

2. Counting Book Games


Simple! Count things in the pictures in your favourite books, and have your toddler find the numeral to match. You will need a set of number cards, but otherwise this needs no prep.

You can use ANY books to play this game, but here are our favourites:

First 100 animals – we count the legs!
Three bears – we count the bears, bowls, chairs and beds
Super worm – we count the worm/beetles/snails etc.
Hide And Seek Farm – we count the animals (different amounts on each page 0-5)

No time to faff around with number cards?

Invest in some books that will do the job for you FOR YEARS. There are some seriously brilliant counting books out there, which have numbers inside, so no number cards are needed to play games with these. Our favourites are:

Counting Colours
Each double page is a different colour, and has a treasure hunt on it (1 strawberry, 2 father Christmases etc. up to 10 objects). Excellent for improving visual memory which helps with literacy, numeracy and everything really. T never gets bored looking for stuff in this book. And he is learning colours and expanding his vocabulary at the same time.

Lift The Flap Counting Book
Each double page represents a number 1-5. You look at the pictures at the bottom and lift the flaps to find 2/3 etc. of each animal or object. We got so much use out of this around 12-18 months (and still do now) as T loved opening the flaps and finding things. He also enjoyed the challenge of remembering where the different animals were hiding :-).

Simple First Words: Let’s Say Our Numbers
The main attraction of this book is, without a doubt, the number buttons! The book goes through each number with photos of real objects to count, and number buttons to press. Great for counting and number recognition (and lots of fun pressing the buttons as they learn!).

At first, your toddler can see the number on the page and try and find the matching buttons. For more experienced children, you can cover the number, have them count the objects and press the number button, then lift up your hand to see of they are right!

First 100 Numbers
This is the most recent addition to our collection. Lots of counting opportunities with pictures of real objects and numbers to refer to. Lots to talk about.

I highly recommend ALL of these books. They are fun, stimulating ways to start talking about numbers and counting. And if you’re exhausted after a long week, no prep needed! That in itself is always attractive in this household.

3. Treasure Basket Challenge

Get a treasure basket together containing 1-5 (or 1-10) of similar items, and some number cards.
For our basket, we used:

1 stick, 2 wooden blocks, 3 rocks, 4 pine cones and 5 shells. I wanted to choose natural objects here, just to be different. We already count his toys (especially his cars!!) quite a lot, so this makes a change.

Hold up or point to a number card and challenge your toddler to find you 1 ball, 2 blocks etc. and place them next to the card. Reward them with praise, high fives, claps, stickers – whatever your preference!

Extension: Instead of giving them the number, ask them “How many animals can you find?”, count them as they find them and have them match them to the right number.

Interested in treasure baskets? There is a lot of fun and learning to be had with these. Check out my post on TBs here for a full explanation. I’ve also started a treasure basket Pinterest board here, which I’ll keep adding to. Enjoy :-).

5. Sensory Number Match

OK this one does involve a bit of prep…but it’s worth it :-). But if you really don’t have time to make these cards, just play the games with store-bought cards.

Make yourself a set of sensory number cards. These are particularly beneficial for more kinaesthetic learners, as they can feel the shape of the numbers. But I think they are fun for all children – generally the rule is the more senses you use when learning something, the more likely it is to “stick”.

I made a set of sandpaper and felt number cards, as I already had these materials to hand. I first drew numbers on paper, then used these like a sewing pattern to draw around on the sandpaper and felt. I folded A4 card into 4 and cut it, then stuck the numbers on.

They are a bit rough around the edges but they’ll last for a bit. If I had more time and money I would have covered them with sticky back plastic. If you are really organised, you might get them laminated.

Once you have your cards, here are two games you can play:

Memory: Everyone knows a version of this…but just in case you need a reminder: Begin with two matching pairs. Put them face down on the floor/table.  Encourage your toddler to lift them up and match them and give lots of praise when they do. It will involve lots of support at first, but it’s amazing how quickly they get the idea.

Extension: as your toddler gets more experienced, just add more pairs to find and introduce the concept of turn-taking.

Matching Pairs
Scatter one set of cards around the room.  With the other set, hold up number cards, challenge your toddler to find the matching pair and run back to you with it. For every correct match give lots of praise/high fives/raisins – whatever will motivate them most!

Extension: For older children, put a blindfold on and challenge them to find matching pairs by touch.

5. Build a Number Tower

Put post-it’s with numbers onto building blocks.
Ask toddler to find number 1/2etc. in order, using number cards as a visual prompt.  When he finds a block, have him place the block on the tower, and count them together, pointing to the numbers as you go.  Finish by toppling the tower!

Extension: with older children, try this with two sets of numbered blocks and race each other to construct a tower of 5/10 (with numbers in order)

6. Stepping stones

Write numbers on paper/card (old cereal boxes work well for this), create stepping stones and have fun jumping on them.  Hold up and call out numbers for your toddler to run to.

Extension: just call out the numbers without holding up the card. For older kids, give them a sum, they have to work out the total and run to that number.

8. Peg Puzzle Number Hunt with trucks/shopping basket


This game evolved from T’s love of vehicles! Lay out number peg puzzle on the floor/table. Hide peg puzzle pieces all around the room. Send your toddler on a hunt to find the numbers, bring them back to you in the truck and put them into the puzzle!

This is a great, active game that uses up some energy, while reinforcing number recognition. Another fave around here, now that mummy’s energy levels are slowing down a bit.

Extension: Once your toddler’s number recognition begins to improve, call out numbers for her to find, without using number cards; for older children, ask them to find the number that is 1 more/1 less than 7 etc.

A Word About Peg Puzzles
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may have noticed we use peg puzzles a lot for games. It really is worth investing in a few, especially a number peg puzzle. Why? (I hear you ask).


the pegs are perfect for strengthening little fingers

they are far easier to pick up than number cards or even foam or magnetic numbers

they provide you with an instant reference for number games (you could use the peg numbers for any of the games here, except the one in the bath)

they are tactile, so your child can feel the shape of the number

AND – if that wasn’t enough reason, the puzzle is a game all by itself!

Right-ho. I shall stop waffling now, because I have reached the end of my little list.

Still need more number play ideas? Check out my Toddler Number Activities Pinterest Board for more simple toddler number play ideas. I’m going to be delving in there over the next few weeks to keep T occupied.

I won’t be writing any big posts for a while, but there may be a few little surprises on the way in the next month, so stay tuned…

Until next time, have a lovely day!


8 Top Tips For Successful Number Play With Toddlers


I am really excited about this post, because we love numbers in this house.  Almost as much as cars and trains (but not quite!).  So, as I do my best to follow T’s interests, we’ve been doing lots of number-y type things together lately.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember my post on maths with babies.  Well, now that T is a toddler, and able to do lots more physically and mentally, we’ve been trying some new number and counting activities and games, which I would like to share with you all.

But first, to get you in the mood for maths, here are my 8 Top Tips For Successful Number Play With Toddlers.

1.  It is never too early…

…to introduce the concept of numbers to your child.  YES, you will be doing it through FUN, PLAYFUL activities, but don’t feel you have to lower your expectations of your baby or toddler, just because they are not of school age.  Even babies under one have a developing understanding of what 1 or 2 objects is.  Just because they can’t speak yet to explain the concept, doesn’t mean they aren’t able to recognise what 1 or 2, a few or a lot is.

There is no reason your baby or toddler can’t begin to recognise numerals from an early age too.  After all, a numeral is just a shape with a name – just like a pig, a house or a truck.  So every time you see numbers and name them (just as you would a duck or an aeroplane) it is all going into their amazing developing brains.

2.  SORTING is a useful way of introducing counting and numbers.

Sorting (by shape, colour or other shared features) is a mathematical skill in itself.  It is also a great opportunity for you to introduce counting, numerals and the language of maths.  Most toddlers begin to categorise at around 18 months.  So capitalise on this interest when you see it developing, and use it to talk about numbers.  If your toddler is beginning to sort out all of her mini animals into groups of sheep/pigs etc. count them together, then label them with a number card, saying: “how many sheep are there? 3! Can you find number 3?” etc.

3.  Your fingers are your counting friends

Free and permanently accessible, your toddler can always refer to their fingers, wherever they are, to count things.  You will already by used to using your fingers for representing number when you sing rhymes and songs with your littlies.  Don’t be afraid to ask your toddler to do the same.  She won’t have the dexterity to show you 3,4 6, 7, 8 or 9 for a few years, but they can certainly try:

1 – (one hand pointing)

2 – (two hands pointing)

5 – (one hand)

10 – (two hands)

4.  Use mathematical language in all your play

Great words and phrases (that cover all the elements of maths ie not just number) to be using all the time are:

Language of numbers and counting

How many…are there/can you count/are left?

Let’s count the…


A few/a lot/not many

Names of numerals 1-20 and other meaningful numbers such as ages of family members

One more/another one


Language of size, shape and position


up/down/left/right/above/below/on top of/under/next to/beside

names of 2d and 3d shapes

5. Number Play is not just about reciting numbers.

When teaching about number, these are the 4 elements you want to cover:

Number Recognition: learning the names of numerals

Numbers For Labelling: matching a number to a group of objects to show the total

Number Sequencing: learning the order that numbers go in

Numbers For Counting: learning how to say one number name for each item they count, and the total.

6.  Incorporate counting into all your play

Count anything that can be counted!  Stairs, spoonfuls of food, body parts, animals in picture books, ducks on the river, people in the room, trains on the track, apples in the fruit bowl – anything!  As with all learning, repetition is the key.  Just counting with your toddler means you are reinforcing the names and order of numbers, without having to really do anything.  I don’t know about you, but with a day filled with laundry, cleaning and other chores, we like anything that is easy around here.

7.  Get these resources together

Most of your maths resources are all around you – toys, household objects and those all important fingers.

But it’s worth getting some of these cheaply too, as you will get a LOT of use out of them:

  • Foam numbers
  • Number Cards (either bought or home-made)
  • Number Puzzles
  • Number Books

If you have all of these, you have several instant games without any real preparation.  These (and objects/movements/fingers) are all I used for about a year to teach T numbers and counting.

8.  Go at your child’s pace

MOST IMPORTANTLY: for success, it is always best to go at your child’s pace.  You know your chld better than anyone else – what they know already, what inspires and excites them, and only you can tell when they are ready to grasp something.  They may pick up counting really quickly, but be totally disinterested in sorting by colour.  Or perhaps they will have amazing fine motor skills and be brilliant at using their fingers to represent numbers, but have no interest in shape sorting.  Your toddler’s individual style of learning will play a part too.  If they are an active learner, they will get more out of jumping on numbered stepping stones, counting claps or tracing sandpaper letters than pointing to numbers in a book.  Learning is not a race, it is a journey.  Each child will follow their own unique path to learning numbers and everything else.

Right, I’ll get off my soap box now.  That was beginning to feel a  little bit like a lecture!

I hope you found these tips useful.  If so, pin, tweet, share or post a comment below to show me you care :-).

Here Comes The Fun Bit:

Look out for my next post in this little series – some fun and simple number activities you can set up REALLY  easily at home.  I am very excited about posting these as they have taken a while to set up, try and test.  I will also open up my Toddler Maths Activities Pinterest Board to view if you want to follow me on Pinterest.  Until then, have fun, playful people!  See you soon…

Teach Your Baby Maths: Fun Counting Rhymes for Under 1s


counting songs and rhymes2

Music is a fun, easy, cheap way to give your baby her first experience of counting, adding and subtraction. Babies and children need lots and lots of this  – it gives them a good grounding in what the numbers 1-10 look like (ie what does three balls look like?) and what they mean. Parents I knew when I was a teacher always used to be proud to tell me their child could “count” – by which they meant he could recite numbers from 0 upwards.

Whilst reciting numbers is a good party trick, it is really just a feat of memory. You are far better off teaching your baby how many teddies there are on the bed, or how many carrots they have left on their plate now that you have taken one away.  This gives them a true understanding of number. It is also important to teach them the basics of adding or subtracting one more.  That is not to say, don’t bother teaching your baby to recite numbers in order.  It’s just important not to focus solely on that.

The brilliant thing is – you can do all of this with counting rhymes! There are lots of other ways to introduce maths to your baby in a playful way – and you can be sure I’ll be posting those in the next few months.  But you’ve got to start somewhere, and when your baby is tiny, I think counting rhymes is the way to go.

I have dispensed with writing out the lyrics to songs and putting links to them on youtube, because it takes forever to write the bleedin’ things out, and its only on the off chance that a mum that reads the post might not know the song.  Truth is, most mummies know all of these classics from their own parents or various music groups they attend.  I  figure, if you really haven’t heard of the song, you can find it easily on youtube!

Here are my favourite counting rhymes :

1. Five Little Ducks

Do it with your fingers, or, even better, invest in five plastic ducks and sing it at bath time.  T and I now put them on the edge of the bath and he knocks them all in, as I count 1,2,3,4,5 – then we begin the song.  He loves getting involved in the song and – it gives him a chance to throw things over a precipice – one of his favourite pastimes at the moment – without restriction!
2. Five Little Men in a Flying Saucer

I love the melody to this one – it’s really upbeat.   I think it’s important to like the tune of the songs you sing – as you end up singing them an awful lot, and if they’re dull, you won’t feel like doing it, and neither will your baby…which kind of defeats the object really!  When the men fly off into the air, I wiggle my index finger upwards and say “Whoooosh!”.

3. Five Little Monkeys (jumping on the bed)

I make my five fingers dance on his leg and then jump off – he loves it!
 4. Ten Fat Sausages

This is fun to do because you can click your fingers on “pop” and clap them on “bang”!  I am easily pleased hehe.
5. One, Two, Three, Four, Five (once I caught a fish alive)

Lovely melody to sing, and one of the only counting rhymes that goes up to ten, using all of your fingers.  At the end I wiggle my little finger right in front of his nose and this makes him smile!

6.  Five Little Speckled Frogs

I do this with my fingers at the moment, turning them upside down to sit on the log, then using my hands to “dive” in, when they jump into the pool.  But I have plans to buy five little plastic frogs.

Well those are my favourites – hope you enjoyed reading them!