Counting and other Math Activities for PreK-1

counting activities

Number Activities For PreK- First Grade

Practice at home is SUPER important for all kids!

“1,2,5!” my son proudly exclaims.

“Oh… How many is that buddy?”


“ok, Let’s try counting together. 1…(we touch the object), 2…(we touch the second object), 3! (we touch the third object). It’s 3!”

Getting Started

Children start organizing their understanding of math concepts long before they go to school.   Every child is different but most start developing observable patterns about what they’re ready (or getting ready) to learn around the age of 3 or 4.

Preschool worksheets make me cringe, especially for math.

Developmentally they are not ready for this on SO MANY levels! They do not have the muscle strength and their visual spacial reasoning skills are still developing and matching 2 dimensional objects to letters or numbers is not relevant or useful for a 3 or 4 year old.  (NOTE: Coloring only sheets are fine).


In my 12 years of teaching the number one thing most kids need more practice with is number sense!

Number sense is literally making sense of numbers. It is more than counting or identifying a number. Child with good number sense have the ability to read, write, identify, compose and decompose numbers.

I have taught Kindergarten through 3rd grade and over the years and what I have noticed is that fewer kids are coming into the school year with solid understanding of numbers and how to make sense of them.

No one is born being bad at math. Some kids enjoy math and put more effort into it because they like it. Some kids aren’t super interested in math & would rather do other activities. Like brushing your teeth Math is a non-negotiable topic. Kids need to do it everyday and if your child is having self esteem issues related to basic math skills these activities should help!

The best activities to build number sense are:

  1. Reading number books
  2. Rote counting
  3. One to one correspondence (matching)
  4. Games and Puzzles
  5. Songs and Poems

Reading Number & Counting Books

A great way to introduce a new topic or reinforce something you’re trying to get more practice and learn is b reading books! Number books are an excellent way to spend time together learning.

I like simple books with pictures that have the corresponding number of items so that the kids can match one-to-one (count and touch the object they are counting).

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Number or Counting Books:

Ten Little Lady Bugs by Melanie Gerth 

Goodnight Numbers by Danica McKellar 

I Spy Numbers by Jean Marzollo

Little Owl’s 1,2,3

Pocket Piggies Numbers

How Many Bugs in a Box by David A. Carter 

What is Rote Counting?

Rote counting is counting in sequence from memory. This is something that needs to be practiced regularly, although It may seem like your child just woke up one day and spontaneously learned how to count. It was actually years of counting and hearing others count.

It’s best to start with numbers to 3 with your toddler. It is a number they will be prepared to master (read, write, count, sort and manipulate) in the up-coming preschool years.  Knowing the sequence will help them as they’re learning.

Suggested Activities for Rote Counting: (count while…)

  • waiting
  • walking
  • throwing a ball

One to One Correspondence 

1:1 correspondence is matching (exactly) the number the child says to the number of objects.

This skill takes time to develop so be patient and instead of correcting mistakes offer lots of practice spread out over time. Kids develop the ability to count AND match objects accurately between the ages of 5 and 8 and these skills develops overtime and should not be rushed.

Suggested Activities for One to One Correspondence:

Games and Puzzles

This is my favorite way to practice number sense with kids!

Count the dots on the die, practice number puzzles or play games that require counting spaces and matching a place marker to the space you counted.  We have a game night that helps reinforce math and a lot of other important preschool skills, like sharing and taking turns. Some of our favorite games and puzzles are:

Suggested Games & Puzzles for Counting and Number Sense:

Zingo 1,2,3 (4 years and up) 

Melissa and Doug Wooden Counting Puzzle

Counting Puzzle

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

Count Your Chickens

Counting Bears

Songs and Poems

Music is a great way to motivate kids to practice counting more. Do you remember what songs you sang as a kid? I remember 1, 2 Buckle My Shoe.  Singing is a great way for kids to keep practice counting. I notice when I sing with my son he keeps singing the same songs for a few days.

My favorite song for learning numbers to 20 is The Number Rock by Greg and Steve! You can download it on Amazon, buy the CD or watch them on You Tube. It’s amazing and preschool & Kinders love it!

5 Green and Speckled Frogs by Mother Goose Club

3 Things you can start today (if you haven’t already):

  • Rote counting.  I modeled counting real life situations to 3 (ex: counting how many vitamins we take) then to 5 (fingers on our hand, toes on our feet) then to (counting all fingers, then on another day all toes).
  • Think aloud…. ” I see a tricycle… how many wheels does a tricycle have? Let’s count.” Even if they don’t show interest you still follow through.  They’re still listening and eventually will pick it up.
  • Count Objects (SLOWLY and touch or move each object as you count)
Counting and other Math Activities for PreK-1

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