Grab the tape, your toddler, and some toys – this toddler counting activity will get your three-year-old thinking and moving.
As my toddler rummaged through the small toys I collected for him; math magic began to unfold. But not the kind of magic where I watched my toddler counting and instantly understanding the two-step directions. No, this was a little different. It wasn’t an instant success.
This math magic was more along the lines of him beginning to problem-solve, apply mathematical reasoning, and make connections to prior knowledge.
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Toddlers begin to count at different ages and stages.
Remember, exposure to counting is the best way to help a toddler count.
“Here are ten blueberries for your snack. Let’s count them.”
“Can you find me three markers for my drawing?”
“I wonder how many seconds it will take you to run and touch the car?”
Simple everyday interactions such as these will help your toddler hear numbers daily and allow them to connect the dots on their terms. We do this a lot in simple activities such as Googly Eye Count Up and Feed the Sharks. Both classic counting games my three-year-old loves.
Let’s begin counting with our toddler to ten, and then pause.
We want to pause because we can do a lot to help our child understand that the number three has a symbol and that the number three stands for three objects.
This math concept seems simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t!
Truly understanding what a number symbol stands for is much more complicated. The more we practice touching and counting objects under ten, the stronger foundation our elementary children when number sense and mathematical standards move quickly.
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Let’s get this toddler counting activity set up!
To set up, I gathered a collection of toys. I wanted one of something, two of something, three of something, until I reached five. Here, I am using items we already own!
Next, I grabbed my painter’s tape and boxed out some spaces for each toy and label each group 1-5.
An alternative setup is to use white paper, the back of a cut open paper bag, or the end of wrapping paper. Here, we can draw the boxes with a marker.
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My three-year-old sure did a lot of thinking with this math activity!
When grouping objects that are alike, there are many things to think about at a time. – Which items are alike? Where do they go? How many can I find? Should I be playing or sorting? So naturally, the three-year-old needs a little more prompting.
- As my three-year-old begins, I may say something to get him started, such as:
- This is a group of three. I see three squares.
- Let’s count the squares. 1,2,3.
- Let’s take a look at all your favorite items you have here! Is there anything that you have three of?
- Let’s add one into each box here.
After some prompting, the counting wheels began to turn!
Allow your toddler to think about what is in front of them and watch what your child does. We want our children to become problem-solvers and thinkers without getting frustrated.
I also want to listen to my three-year-old. Most of the time, my three-year-old’s reasoning blows me away.
If he became frustrated, I walk over (with my tea, of course) and prompt with the conversation starters listed above.
If my three-year-old still weren’t interested, I would step back knowing that we can try again in 3-6 months.
Remember, all of this is to plant seeds and expose children to ideas such as classification, grouping, and quantity. When your toddler is ready, we will watch all the counting parts and pieces come together.