How to Teach a Child to Count: The Ultimate Guide

Counting. Many of us don’t remember learning it, but this skill is something we use daily without realizing it.

Counting is the stepping stone to all other math skills, so as a parent, it is naturally on your mind to teach your child early. Early development of counting skills can be a great way to give your child a head start on their preschool class. Studies show that learning to count at a young age is a great foundation to future academic success.

Plus, the more comfortable they are with numbers, the more comfortable they are likely to be when introduced to other math skills like addition and subtraction.

Fortunately, teaching your child to count doesn’t have to be overwhelming or overly technical. Many of the best teaching items I have found are easily handmade or laying around the house already. The biggest key to success is consistency and enthusiasm!

So where do you start in teaching your little one to count?

Lucky for you, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to teach a child to count.  If you follow all the tips and strategies here, your child will be a better counter in no time!

How to Teach a Child to Count

#1) Counting Songs

One of the easiest ways to introduce counting is by singing! (Even if you have a terrible voice like me, I’m sure your little one won’t mind if you make up for it with enthusiasm!)

Singing and rhymes can be a great way to start of idea of counting, even at a very early age. Some cute, and easy to remember, songs that come to mind are things like “5 Green and Speckled Frogs”, “Way up high in the Apple Tree”, and even “5 Little Monkeys”.

These songs can easily be song at bedtime, in the car, at bath time, etc. and are an easy way to introduce counting into your daily routine.

#2) Counting Videos

Similar to singing counting songs, a great way for how to teach a child to count is with counting videos.  Like many parents, I try to limit the screen time my child gets, but I am guilty of handing him my phone from time to time.

If you’re going to give your child screen time, you might as well make the most of it and do something educational. There are a lot of free counting videos available on YouTube. Many of these videos are very cute, incorporating dance moves and visuals to help your little one in the beginning stages of learning to count.

Bonus: you may find some of these songs catchy and will be able to add these to your repertoire of counting songs (you know, to save your sanity).

Here are some great counting videos:

#3) Counting Apps

Seriously, how did our parents do it? Smart devices have made teaching your child to count infinitely easier.

First, free videos on YouTube (and that 10 minutes of sweet, sweet silence that comes with it) and now a simple search reveals many, many free applications (whether Google Play or Apple) that also teach and reaffirm simple counting.

This is a great way for busy parents to keep counting at the front of their child’s mind in an interactive way. Kids love games, so they’ll be having fun and you can be happy knowing they are learning while they are at it.

Here are some of the many counting apps out there:

#4) Counting Cards

No, we’re not talking about Blackjack.

This next suggestion is an easy handmade item for a more hands on teaching experience. You will need a paper punch or stickers and several large index cards.

On one side of the card, you write a large number. If you are just starting, you may start with 5 or 10 and add from there. If you are at a more advanced point in your teaching, you may use them to count 5’s or 10’s at a time.

Back to the cards….

After you have the numbers listed on one side of each card, use your paper punch to punch the appropriate number of holes or use stickers in the same manner. Pro tip: arrange the numbers is different patterns to they don’t all look the same!

These counting cards are a great way to give children a visual and physical interaction with their learning. It’s my favorite tip for how to teach your child to read and count!

#5) Counting Cards 2.0

Here’s a variation on the previous idea…and because I lack creativity, we’ll call it: Counting Cards 2.0!

I really like this one because it adds an extra bit of challenge as your little smarty pants gets better at counting and recognizing numbers. Remember the cards from before? Well if you make sure to use extra-large index cards when you make them the first time, you can now cut them down the middle.

Once they are cut in half, it becomes an entirely new game! Match the sticker/hole punch side with the correct number card! I really like this one because it means I don’t have to make new cards and it’s a great next step when you find your child is advancing past basic recognition.

#6) Colors and Counting! We’re in!

Another easy handmade item – the colored counting cups! This is a great way to “kill two birds with one stone” when teaching your child how to count. You will need several different colored pompoms or balls and several small containers (think old Pringle cans you can paint, empty yogurt containers, or colored bowls from the dollar store).

This one is SUPER easy, but since the activity is a little larger than the counting cards, we suggest only using this for beginners learning to count to 5 or 10.

Now, paint your containers (or if you are like me, buy them in several different colors) and label them with a number. Have your child put the right color and number of balls or pompoms in the container.

Enthusiasm is key in keeping this one fun and interesting with early learners!

#7) Skip, Hop, Count!

Young children crave activity and can be somewhat difficult to pin down for “learning” time. So, if you have a very active child like mine, how can you successfully teach your child to count?

With a counting version of “hop-scotch” (remember that?).

Making your learning activities physical is a great way to find success. The large index cards from before can be used to make a fun, interactive hopping game. However, these can be a little slippery on smoother surfaces and carpeting. Instead, you may opt for several of those cheap, foam sheets used for crafting.

Using the foam sheets, write large numbers on each. This is another activity where you can modify based on your child’s specific needs.

Just beginning to learn? Using each number individually is a great choice for you.

More Advanced? Use the sheets to count by 5’s or 10’s! Once the sheets are all made, they can be arranged in a line or in a pattern and your child can jump from sheet to sheet while learning and counting out loud! The catch? They are only allowed to jump as they say the number they are jumping to, and count along!

#8) Count Everything

The biggest ally in teaching your child to count is consistency. Even with a very busy schedule, it can be easy to incorporate counting into everyday activities.

Count items in the grocery cart as they are put up on the belt, count the cars you pass through the parking lot (added challenge, only certain colors of cars!), really count anything and everything you can. Your child also comes equipped with built in “counters” – fingers and toes!

There are so many great ways for how to teach a child to count, these are just some of our favorites. The keys to successful learning are enthusiasm and consistency. If you are excited about counting and find inventive ways to incorporate it into play time and daily routines you are sure to find success when teaching your child how to count!

When it comes to how to teach a child to count, what are some of your favorite strategies? Leave a comment below!

About Eric and Tiffany Matthews

We're Eric and Tiffany, the parents behind Cynical Parent. We're just normal parents who are navigating parenthood with both eyes wide open (probably because there's a kid yelling nearby). And of course, we're pretty cynical. Don't believe everything you read or hear, whether it's on the internet, or from a close family or friend (or even from us!). Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Sometimes you just need to try and see for yourself. :)

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