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Number Sense & Early Math Skills: 3 Simple Activities for Young Children

Foundational math skills are an important part of early learning and kindergarten readiness. In preschool and pre-k, children should have a variety of opportunities to practice counting, sorting, and organizing to get comfortable with using numbers.

Number sense is the first step in math awareness. It describes the basics of learning about numbers, including counting forwards and backwards, in order to understand the relationship between numbers. This week we share three different activities that use budget-friendly materials to enhance counting, number sense, and 1:1 correspondence skills among early learners.

Playing Cards Math Activity

Image from Busy Toddler.

This simple math activity from Busy Toddler uses playing cards and buttons (or other small objects that you have handy such as pom-poms or small pieces of paper) as manipulatives for a simple counting activity. To set up this activity, grab playing cards (ace through 10) and set them out. Using buttons as math counters, encourage children to count out the correct number of buttons for each playing card. You can start with smaller numbers and introduce bigger numbers when the child is ready for a more difficult challenge. Click here to read the entire article for more detailed instructions.

Leaves and Clothespins Counting Activity

Image from Kids Craft Room.

This activity from Kids Craft Room requires just two baskets, a bunch of clothes pins, a sharpie and some leaves. You might even consider taking a walk with the children so they can help collect the leaves! To set the activity up, wash and dry the leaves and then use a sharpie to mark a number on each.  Put the leaves in one basket and the clothes pins in the other and set them out on a table. Children can then peg a number of clothes pins onto each leaf that matches the number written on each leaf. This one activity provides practice with 1:1 correspondence, number recognition, counting, and fine motor skills. Click here for the full article with more details.

Counting Game with Crackers

Image from Meg O. On the Go.

This activity includes a printable that can also be made by hand with cardstock paper and colored markets. One half of each card displays a number, and the other half contains the same number of small filled-in circles.  Invite the children to say the number and then count as they place a cookie, cracker, or other small item on each circle. If you plan to save the cards to use another time, you might consider laminating the papers so that they don’t get too messy from the snacks. Click here to visit Meg O. On the Go’s blog for the full article.


For information and ideas for incorporating early math skills into your curriculum, check out G2K’s articles: Why is Math Important in Early Learning? and Budget-Friendly Math Activities for Early Learners. Or visit the G2K Pinterest board, Early Learning Mathematics.

Tags:   STEM & numeracy
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