Teach kids numbers with number recognition games- The Traveling Closet

by Mary Ann on May 30, 2011

three little kids picture

Mary, Jack and Maggie LOVE the Traveling Closet and "grandma school"

Maggie knows all her numbers, numerals as well as words up to 20 or so. Jack can count to eight really fast! The fast part is important to him. He can’t yet put his finger on an item and just count one at a time. He doesn’t recognize all the numerals or the words. Mary can’t even talk yet but you should hear her count. If she could verbalize those words she surely would! So number recognition was our topic for today. Next week I am teaching letter recognition, do check that too.

While I was doing my 30 minutes of research for activities to teach kids numbers I hit the mother lode!! I was able to begin files not only on numbers and number recognition games but other amazing math concepts for younger children: logical thinking, patterns, measurement, money, opposites, shapes, colors, the alphabet and some science concepts. WOW! With a littlie bit of time I can flesh those out and be good to go for many weeks. If this sounds like something you would like to be able to do in thirty minutes watch for my class “Filling your Closet on a Dime with Little Time” which will be available in just a couple weeks.

Closet tip one – I had enough ideas in my basket today to cover a couple of weeks. In your daily family structured learning time you would only add 2-3 of these suggestions per week over a number of weeks. After all, when they are finished with the new activity there are many other wonderful things in your Closet. For the purpose of helping you with content we do far more activities in one sitting than we normally would.

We started the day with the item in the basket the children always find most fascinating, the books. We read three of them. See below for the wonderful books that I got from the library.

counting game pictures

Jack counting to 12

Then we  played some simple and fun number recognition games. First,they chose a zip lock bag of number cards and soup crackers. They took turns choosing a number and then figuring out which number it was. Then they got as many soup crackers as the number on the card. We could have done this multiple times but ran out of crackers. : )

The next most intriguing thing to them was a muffin tin with numbers written in the bottom. (If you don’t want to write on your pan use muffin liners. I didn’t have any on hand and keeping it simple is my motto. Going to the store for one item isn’t simple!)

Each child chose a number and then they got to choose that same number of items from a bag to drop into the tin. I had a wonderful assortment of jewels, pennies, buttons and other small items. (We had to really keep an eye on the 17 month old.) The 17 month old loved this game and would “count” each item as she dropped it in the tin. I wish we had that on video because it was so cute. They liked this game so much that we played it quite a few times.

number game pictures

Maggie is very proud to know her numbers.

While they had a snack I had another game prepared, a number card game. Each card had a number on one side and a rhyme or song on the other that used numbers. Each child would choose a card, we would talk about which number it was and then we would say the rhyme or sing the song. For a list of  number songs and rhymes for children see below.

Another game that they really liked involved a paper punch. I had some number cards that they each took turns choosing. Then we would decide what the number was and punch that many holes in the card. The paper punch was a big hit but they did need some help. Use thin paper for this activity if you have very little people.

We tried a very simple dot to dot and although they liked the activity they didn’t really understand the concept of moving from number to number.

For another number recognition activity, we drew the numeral 10 on one sheet of paper and the numeral 12 on another. Then Jack and Maggie stuck the correct amount of stickers on the page. It would be really fun to glue small items instead. However, grandma had reached her limit for preparation. : ) Remember “Keep it Simple”.

paper punch game picture

The paper punch math game was a big hit!

I had some great counting worksheets, easy ones for Jack and more challenging ones for Maggie. Jack didn’t want anything to do with the worksheets but Maggie LOVES them. She is five and the perfect age.

We made number caterpillars. We cut out the numbered body parts and glued them together. Both Maggie and Jack wanted to learn to cut with the scissors. Jack is three and Maggie has cerebral palsy so that was a real experience. They turned out very nicely and Jack was thrilled to hang them up. You are supposed to color them before cutting and gluing but neither Maggie nor Jack cared a fig about the coloring, so we skipped it.

Here is Closet tip two. It would have been better to have Jack’s caterpillar body parts precut. He isn’t quite old enough to cut on lines, with that many pieces. So he had a small melt down. You really need to think through activities and what is going to work best for the children. It would have been great to have an 8 or 10 year old around to help prepare the cards and cut out caterpillar parts.

We ended with a body parts game. I had drawn body parts on cards. Each child picked a card and then decided how many of that body part they had. If they were a bit older we could have done some addition by adding up the parts for each of our bodies or even introduce some multiplication. I did have a terrific book today that did just that: Each Orange Had Eight Slices.

Closet tip three – When doing academics or lots of “paper” work it is valuable to have some big movement activities. We did most of our activities at the table but Jack got a bit tired. We read the book Christopher Counting, a delicious book about counting everything. A walk outdoors to count flowers, bricks, dogs, flowers, etc. would have been a welcome break.

Closet tip four – If I find a site that gives me enough information, crafts, activities and games for a few weeks I don’t look for more sites. I mine that one until we are ready to move on to another topic. This saves time and still provides wonderful and inspiring Closet content. How did I come up with all those Math ideas I mentioned above. Check out this site. Its value to me was in the ideas it provided. I put each concept on a separate word doc and saved it to research later.

Mathematics  games and fun ideas for children 5-8:

Mathematics games and fun ideas for children 8-12:

Kids books for number recognition and beginning math concepts:

Each Orange Had 8 Slices by Paul Giganti, Jr. A wonderful book which helps to introduce mathematics to young children.

Look Whooo’s Counting by Suse MacDonald, a beautifully illustrated counting book.

Christopher Counting by Valeri Gorbachev A book about the joys of children learning to count.

Counting Kids by Kim Golding

Ten Little Bears: A Counting Rhyme by Kathleen Hague

I Spy Two Eyes: Numbers in Art by Lucy Micklethwait  This is a fabulous book which uses paintings from famous artists to teach children to count.

Children’s number songs and rhymes:

5 Little Ducks

10 in a Bed

One, Two Buckle My Shoe

Wee Willie Winkie

10 Little Indians

Hickory Dickory dock

One Potato, Two Potato

Hot Cross Buns

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Rub a Dub Dub

Once I Caught a Fish Alive

5 Little Speckled Frogs

Using math in everyday life is the best way to learn it

muffin tin math game picture

Mary loves to count and does it in a "sing song" voice

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kate Houston June 1, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I love your blog! My absolute favorite thing is the traveling closet and grandma school!!! Keep ’em coming!


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