How to Introduce Counting to Your Child: A Step-by-Step Guide

6 min read

Last Modified 20 March 2024 First Added 20 March 2024

Author Katy

Learning to Count is a skill that children start to understand very early in their development, often before they go to school. Helping your child to learn fundamental skills before they start reception will benefit them both academically and socially. There have been multiple recent reports from children’s charities and educational institutions that highlight how many preschoolers are arriving in the classroom without basic skills such as counting or even talking, leaving them behind their peers and struggling to keep up with the pace of learning. This can have an impact on their confidence and ability to make friends and benefit from the social aspects of school, as well as impact their long term academic success. Of course, all children learn at their own individual pace. You know your child and what they need, want and respond to. Creating an encouraging and and positive learning environment in your home means they can learn with you in a safe and nurturing way, setting them up for successful academic journey.

Give them a headstart by encouraging them to learn through play at home. You can begin teaching little ones about numbers from birth, many songs, poems and nursery rhymes feature numbers and counting – see below for some of our very favourite counting songs. As soon as your child begins to show an interest in the world around them and begins to make early attempts at sounds and words, you can introduce the basic concepts of counting and repeating numbers, pointing out number symbols and getting them to repeat the number sounds back to you, with lots of positive reinforcement when they get things right!

Introduce The Concept Of Counting

Let your child get familiar with the look and sound of numbers. Brightly coloured cards, magnets or numbers cut out of scrap fabrics is a fun and tactile way to introduce the basic shapes. Seek out books and even wall art for their bedroom that feature numbers and counting. Count out load whenever possible, and show your little one how to touch one item with each number. This will help them to form a basic understanding of numeracy and the sequence of numbers.

Start pointing out numbers in stories that you read together, around the home or when you are out and about. Count small groups of items together, either toys or other objects. Count your steps, jumps, fingers, toes, how many people are at your table…the list of ways to highlight counting at home is endless and will probably come quite naturally to you once you start looking for ways to count out loud in your little one’s presence.

Have you seen our printable colouring-in and activity sheets? 

Practise Counting Together

Keep up consistency and make counting part of your everyday dialogue with your child. Let them help you to count things together. Point at individual objects or toys and say each number – you can also demonstrate the amount on your fingers and see if they copy you. Watch for when they start to repeat numbers, or are able to fill in the next number before you say it. Songs and rhymes are a really positive way to reinforce knowledge and many beloved children’s songs and nursery rhymes feature numbers and number sequences.  You probably have ones that you remember from your own childhood, but here are some of our favourites:

10 Green Bottles Hanging On The Wall

1,2 Buckle My Shoe

1,2,3,4,5 Once I Caught A Fish Alive

5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day

There are even more ideas for counting rhymes and songs on the BBC website, along with videos and music!

Start Learning Sequencing

Practise saying numbers in order, starting with just counting up to ten and then introducing counting down. Reinforce knowledge by including countdowns in your play together – rocket launches and announcing the beginning of a race with 3, 2 ,1 GO are fun ways to include numbers in non-maths related play. You’ll begin to see your child implement self-correction techniques, they might repeat the entire sequence if they get one number incorrect. Be supportive in these situations, children thrive on positive reinforcement and acknowledgement.

Education Toys Build Knowledge & Confidence

At Early Learning Centre, we stock a huge range of high-quality resources to help you support your child’s learning at home, whilst having fun together. From timeless toys such as our colourful abacus and number puzzles, to sturdy wooden trains and animals with built-in number features, playing together can boost all aspects of their early development and help reinforce newly learnt knowledge. We’ve put together all our toys, games and learning packs so you can easily find the perfect resources for your child’s individual needs and enjoyment!

Using Role Play to Teach Counting

As well as toys and games based specifically about numbers, there are lots of fun ways to reinforce counting in less direct ways through play. Role playing shops and restaurants introduces your child to handling money and prices, supporting their knowledge of numbers. Our much-loved Cash Register has been a feature of children’s role play for nearly 50 years, although it’s been updated with modern touches like a credit card and digital screen and now comes in pink too!

Make numbers the focus of your shopping-based play by counting out items that you want to buy, asking for a certain number of things from the ‘shopkeeper’ and counting out money both given and received in change. These early reenactments of basic social tasks  will not only reinforce number knowledge but also show them the importance counting and numeracy in every day life as well as giving them confidence to approach real life situations.

Moving Forwards

Once your child has grasped the basics of number sequences, counting up and counting down, you can begin to introduce them to simple maths concepts. Adding and subtracting, shape recognition and sorting and measuring can all be understood by pre-school children and fostering an early love for maths could be really beneficial for their academic career.  Keep it fun and pressure-free by practising counting in the kitchen, making the most of all the sorting opportunities and measuring equipment available. We’ve got a blog packed full of Counting In The Kitchen ideas, or get out and about in the fresh air and use the wonders of nature to help grow their maths knowledge, from counting tree rings to number based scavenger hunts with our Counting In Nature ideas.

Whatever you and your little ones do together to help them develop their basic counting skills, we hope we’ve given you some ideas to make it fun for you both. Follow along with all of our Learning Skills blog posts as we share more ways to support your child’s growth and development.

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About the Author


Expert in Miniverse

Katy Clouds is the newest addition to our writing team packing nearly 10 years experience in online copywriting and several awards.

Katy is a serious Miniverse collector and follows all the latest trends in miniatures – look out for lots of collectibles content from her coming soon!

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