Counting Around The House – Math Activity

preschool activity

This activity was inspired by my Halloween candy counting over at my other blog . Seeing how resistant my son is to writing tells me one thing, that he needs to practice lots but it needs to be within activities he loves.  This is a math activity with gross motor, and some writing on a vertical surface which is great for beginning writers because it forces the correct wrist position and strengthens the correct muscles in the hand and arm.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( I get this craft paper in the mailing supply section of Walmart , way cheaper than real butcher paper), markers and something to put the paper on the wall with. I use painter’s tape and I use a lot so my toddler doesn’t pick it off.
  2. Draw a house .
  3. Decide what things you want to count and write them on. I made the windows and doors spots to write the numbers in.
  4. Invite your counter to read the questions on the poster.
  5. Go count !
  6. Come back and fill in the answers.
  7. I wish I had a magic wand for my son to make him believe in his ability to write, to know that he doesn’t have to be perfect and to understand that just because reading is easy doesn’t mean that writing should be or that there is anything wrong because it’s hard. So instead we are doing lots of fun writing… and hoping we turn the corner gently on his terms if possible.  He likes to “split the work” so I made sure we were counting some things with 2 digits, I’d do one or make dots for him and he’d do the other. I don’t think it’s worth it to push to frustration , instead finding ways to make him willing is more my style.
  8. Search your house poster to see which question has the biggest number and which is the smallest.

Counting Books

On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!

1, 2, buckle my shoe

1, 2, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines is a wonderful first counting book, and a favorite of my daughter. The text is the simple rhyme, the pictures are photos of quilted numbers and buttons.  The buttons correspond to the numbers and are so bright that they practically beg a child to touch and count them. My daughter who is 14 months loves to push the buttons, trace the numbers and laughs at the hen. Very sweet book.

How Much, How Many, How Far, How Heavy, How Long, How Tall Is 1000? by Helen Nolan has been sitting patiently on my shelf waiting for my son to be ready to read it. I used this in a math unit when I was a student teacher and absolutely love this book. The whole concept of this book is to explain the concept of 1000. We often teach our kids to count to 100 but don’t pay the same attention to getting them from 100-1000. This book takes it to the next step and demystifies the huge number 1000. It’s interesting, it uses examples kids can relate too and it gives many scenarios so those cogs turning in your child’s head has lots of chances to catch! I read it to my son for the first time yesterday and I loved being there for those moments when I know he just got it!

Halloween Math – Count and Fill Frankenstein

My husband loves math the way that I love art . When he talks about numbers his voices changes just a little bit the same way mine does when I start telling someone about the first time I saw a favorite painting in person. Well my son seems to be gearing more towards that side of things so I have been trying to come up with math activities that fit themes , have an art element if he wants to help me make them and most importantly are fun.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper towel roll or two, some green painters tape , a black markers( one permenant and a regular washable one), drinking straws, stationary labels and scissors.
  2. Start by cutting your paper towel rolls into smaller tubes.
  3. Next color the top of the roll black.  Just use a regular old marker.
  4. Next wrap green painters tape around the bottom of the rolls. Add faces with permenant marker, regular marker will smudge.
  5. Now cut the drinking straws into smaller pieces. Make sure they are long enough to be seen and grabbed above the rolls.
  6. Write numbers on the stationary labels. Make sure you write some numbers that are “easy” and many that are a challenge for them too. The balance of challenge and success builds their self confidence.
  7. Place the Frankensteins on the table with the labels infront. This do not stick to my table but I don’t want to be responsible for wrecking yours, so if you are worried pop down a placemat before the labels. If it’s too late try goo-gone that stuff is a preschool teacher’s secret weapon.
  8. Give your child the straws and let them count and fill! My son loved that he was putting brains into Frankenstein… nice eh?
  9. It was during this lesson that I introduced my son to double checking his work. Here he is counting a 2nd time.
  10. Peel the stickers off and put new ones on. Count and re-fill .

Halloween Counting Book

10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman is one of my favorite Halloween books and both my children love it. We’ve been reading it daily for a few weeks. The premise is simple, a group of trick or treaters are pegged off one by one as they are scared by some Halloween creature.  Readers count down from 10 – 0 and  enjoy the bright detailed illustrations as they do. I particularly like the cute costumes and the final page which has another countdown with candy – always fun to count candy right?

How Many? Estimating Activity

estimation station for kids uo

Every day items make great math manipulatives . When my son’s preschool class did a similar lesson using nice counting bears I knew I wanted to do it at home but with stuff I already had in my art closet.  This activity was great because it gave my son a chance to do things he loves like estimate and count as well as things he resists doing like writing . All with things I had around the house!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some jars or clear plastic containers, small items to pop in them , paper, a pencil, and a clip board. For some reason if I put paper on a clip board my son is way more excited to write than plain old paper.
  2. Start by filling the jars with small objects.  I used corks, pom poms and plastic frog toys. Make sure there are enough to make it a little challenging, they shouldn’t be able to easily count the manipulatives when they are in the jar. 
  3. Write a simple chart to record the items are in each jar . We only recorded the estimates but you can also write the results. I want to encourage my son to write but without pushing.
  4. Time to estimate!
  5. Write it down.
  6. Open and count.
  7. Repeat with other jars . 

Halloween Math Activities

This month will be filled with Fall and Halloween crafts and themed activities . I had to post this one now so that all of you Target shoppers can get to the dollar spot to buy these Halloween erasers before they are gobbled up. I love using themed mini erasers for learning activities especially as  math manipulatives.

Halloween Graphing


Using manipulatives is a great way to introduce children to graphing. Explain that graphs help us see the answers to questions  . Also take the time to make predictions before graphing , such as which row will have the most , which will have the least?Ask them why? I am always fascinated by the reasons why my son makes certain predictions.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a large piece of white paper, a ruler, markers, some fun Halloween manipulatives, and a plastic jack-o-lantern container.  I think when you try to make everything themed kids get more excited and learn more.
  2. Start by making an easy graph. I used pictures and words to represent our manipulatives, my son is interested in the words but not yet ready to rely only on them.
  3. Grab the manipulatives you are using . I made sure to have 3 different amounts . Pop them in your jack-0-lantern.
  4. Invite your child(costume optional) to the table to start. My son dumped the erasers but taking them out one at a time is great too!
  5. Ask your child to make a prediction – which of the three designs do they think will have the most? Least? Why?
  6. Place them on the graph. 
  7. Keep going!
  8. Just by looking at them which has the most? Least?
  9. Count them to check.

Halloween Patterns


Patterning was one of my favorite preschool math activities to teach. I have found that if you sing song the pattern children have an easier time recognizing the pattern and start using that device themselves when encountered with a pattern they need to continue.

  1. Gather your materials. 2-3 different manipulatives like these Halloween themed erasers in a container, some sentence strips are optional but I like them because they give my son a frame for the pattern. When I simply place the erasers on the table it looks like I expect him to keep the pattern going to the edge of the table and the task seems much more daunting.
  2. Make some simple patterns .
  3. Provide a container and ask your child to keep the pattern going.
  4. If they need help try labeling the pattern out loud . For example saying ” Pumpkin, Bat, Pumpkin, Bat… what comes next?
  5. Keep going, if they are frustrated with the more difficult patterns scrap them and make multiple simpler ones. The goal is success and if it’s too challenging for them they will get frustrated and learning will be minimal.

Spider Craft and Math Game

My backyard is covered in spiders, which has led to my son and I trying to identify the ones we find using the internet . Have you ever googled “Spiders” , I never used to be afraid of spiders, super close up pictures of various spiders changed that for good. So if your little one is into these arachnids instead of googling and risking nightmares, make this fun spider craft, play this game and save yourself the grief !

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a plastic container, we used the plastic part of a light bulb package but any clear plastic would work. Some paint, a hole punch, googley eyes, glue and 4 pipe cleaners.
  2. Start by punching the holes in the plastic.
  3. Next paint the container from the inside. My son loved this part of the craft, he thought it was so cool to watch the paint from under the plastic. Let dry. On a sunny day I put this in the window and it dried (mostly) in 45 minutes.
  4. Cut the pipe cleaners in half
  5. Thread the pipe cleaners through the holes and twist the ends in place.
  6. Add the eyes with glue. Let dry.
  7. Play

Bug Math

I was lucky enough to get gifted these bug counters from a neighbor whose kids have out grown them. I wasted no time using them to teach some math. The goal of this game is to find the matching types of bugs, count them up and then find the number that matches the total in the tray and place them in.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some counters ( erasers in fun shapes, poker chips.. or plastic toys work well too), a divided tray, some paper , tape and marker.
  2. Write out the number totals on your paper, cut and tape into your tray.
  3. Time to play ( and learn).Group the similar bugs.
  4. Count them
  5. Pop them in the right section!
  6. Don’t forget to dance when you are done ! Watch out , those are some mean jazz hands.