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  • Writer's pictureOur Playful Learning Journey

Fun and Playful Ways to Explore Numbers and Counting

Updated: May 6, 2022

Learning to count and recognise numbers can be lots of fun and exciting too! Read on to find some inspiration for ways you can explore numbers and counting with your child.


All About Numbers

I created a little table set up for Miss 5 to explore numbers this week. She is learning how to write the numerals 0-9 by tracing them each morning when she arrives at preschool. This has increased her interest in learning about numbers, which meant that setting up an invitation to explore numbers was a great way to build on her interest.

Invitation to explore numbers through play using loose parts
Invitation to explore numbers

We recently got The Big Book of Numbers, which Miss 5 has been enjoying having read to her and looking at the pages herself.

Also on the table we included:

  • Sumbloxs

  • Grapat rings for counting

  • Flockmen

  • 100’s Board from Treasures From Jennifer

  • Clipboard with paper for drawing

This set up has been left out on the little table, which meant I had to make it friendly for Miss 1 too by making sure that there are no little parts left in this area.

At nap times we add in some smaller parts for Miss 5 to explore (see the photo below).

*These include:

  • Grapat mandala pieces

  • Dice

  • Mini pom poms to go with the hundreds board

  • Counting book and Chameleon Reader (added in by Miss 5 from The Creative Toy Shop).

*Small parts recommended for Ages 3+

Exploring and making Numbers using loose part materials
Exploring making the number five

Miss 5 decided to listen to the Counting book using the Chameleon Reader. She then looked at ‘The Big Book of Numbers’ and made the numbers using the pom poms on the hundreds board. She added in one more pom pom as she read each page, also changing the dice to show the matching number. She got to five and stopped because she is 5.

Setting up some of your number resources is a great way to encourage and invite your child to play with and learn about numbers in a fun and hands on way.


Counting Quantities to Ten

Another fun hands on way to explore matching numerals and quantities is using number blocks and counters. Miss 5 enjoyed matching her Sumbloxs with our fruit counters.

I gave her each number one at a time and she counted out the matching amount of fruit. Miss 5 decided to choose matching fruit and ended up having to swap some around to get the larger numbers.

She enjoyed this and the fruit was in a sensory tray at the time, so there was the added benefit of sensory play, while finding all the fruit in the tray as she counted.

This worked on her 1:1 correspondence, which means we say one number for each piece of fruit that we count. Another skill worked on was matching the numeral and the quantity e,g. 4 and 🍏🍏🍏🍏

Sumblocks and fruit counters being used for counting small numbers
Counting Fun with Fruity Counters

Some tips:

  • When starting this type of activity, start with smaller quantities e.g. numbers to three, then numbers to 5 etc...

  • For children just starting to count you can help them to count emphasising saying only one number to match each fruit counter and by counting with them.

  • Putting the numbers in order helps those just learning to count.

For an extra challenge:

  • Make bigger teen numbers, numbers to 20.

  • Introduce adding two numbers together using the counters to see how many.

This could be done with any resources you have at home:

  • Make some numbers from cardboard cutouts, or write the numerals on pieces of paper e.g. sticky notes

  • Counters can be any loose parts e.g. shells, buttons, lids, leaves, lego blocks ... the ideas are endless

Sumblox bought from Oskar's Wooden Ark, Fruit Counters from Officeworks


Scoop and Count

Woven basket with pom poms, scoops and bowls for counting
Scoop and Count Sensory Tray

This is another simple idea counting idea. Some pom poms, scoops and bowls make a fun way to work on counting as each pom pom is scooped and placed into a bowl. You can also add in some number discs for matching.

If your child isn’t interested in counting, this still makes a fun sensory tray.

Tray from Kmart, Bowls are Grimms, Blue scoop from The Creative Toy Shop


Books About Numbers

Books are a fantastic resources for learning to recognise numbers and counting.

Ten Little Dinosaurs book and toy dinosaurs on a cardboard tens frame
Ten Little Dinosaurs Counting Fun

We have many books about numbers and they are a great way to learn while having fun reading.

Pictured below is one of Miss 5’s favourite search and find books from Kmart.

it is great for learning about counting and numeral recognition. It is called Search and Find Fairy. There is also a princess and pirate version too.

To begin with we would only search for the smaller numbers and count together.

Over time Miss then 4 would count on her own. Gradually she started to recognise some of the numerals by herself.

Once she was feeling confident with the smaller numbers we started searching for some of the bigger numbers 11-20. Now she confidently recognise and count all the numbers in the book on her own.

Kmart Search and Find Fairy book being used for developing counting skills
Search and find books are great for helping develop counting skills

What are your favourite books about numbers/counting? Let us know in the comments below...


Most of our learning about numbers is done in everyday life and doesn’t require many resources. We look for numbers all around e.g. letter boxes, table numbers in restaurants, numbers in environmental print in our home (on packaging, on toys etc).

We use everyday opportunities to work on counting e.g.

  • How many scoops of yogurt? Let’s count together...

  • How many dress up dresses do you have?

  • How many biscuits do you have?

  • Can you please get out two bowls? Three cups etc...

Using everyday opportunities to build number sense means that your child has many chances to learn and improve in their skills.

I hope that you found this blog post helpful.

Until next time, have fun learning in a playful way!

*Please note - all the above activities were completed with adult supervision. Small parts are recommended for ages 3+ as they are a choking hazard.

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