One, Please

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Here’s a quick but fun way to get your toddler thinking about counting (just to one and two for now), as well as a first lesson on using fingers to count and represent a number.

I set Veronika up in her high chair with cereal puffs for a snack, an old favorite. First I gave her one. “You have one puff,” I told her. Whoops, which quickly was back to zero!

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Then I put out two puffs and counted them. One puff, two puff. To make it trickier, I then put a whole handful on the tray, but asked her to give me one puff. Success.

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Could she hand me two puffs? Double success! I loved that she did this two-handed, one puff per hand, which was a neat insight into her brain.

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Now we turned to the concept of holding up a finger. I asked if she wanted one cracker, holding up one of my own fingers to demonstrate. Then I helped her shape her hand so only one finger was up. Repeat the word “one” and the gesture; it’s okay if your toddler doesn’t get it on the first round!

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Repeat with two crackers (or a similar snack), and help your little one hold up two fingers.

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This was just a first foray, but a great foundation for counting down the road. Either way, my guess is your toddler will ask for more more more of whatever is on the snack menu!

Restaurant Games


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Dining out with a toddler is a lot harder than dining out with baby. While babies might be content to coo from a stroller and watch the world go by, not so your toddler! Here are a few favorite games I’ve found to keep Veronika occupied.

Drawing Games: Restaurants often provide paper and crayons… but good luck with that paper staying on the table. Now, I carry a roll of masking tape in my purse. Tape the paper down, and your toddler won’t be able to rip up his or her masterpiece!

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Hide a Hand: Hide a small item in one hand. Let your toddler see it, but then close both fists. Today, for example, Veronika loved finding a piece of chalk over and over, grinning with delight no matter how many times I switched it back and forth between my hands.


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Hide-and-Seek: This is a classic of course. Hide a small object (a quarter works well) in an easy to spot location, and let your toddler be the seeker.

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Ta da! She found it under the menu.

Count Together: Finally, don’t forget about counting. Veronika already chimes along to “One, two, three…” and although she might not grasp what those words convey, kids can learn to parrot up to ten easily.  So count out sugar packets, crayons, single-serve creamers, or whatever else is on the table!

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Today Veronika loved counting pieces of chalk into an empty plastic cup.

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And of course, it doesn’t hurt if you happen to be at an establishment so cool that the table itself is a chalkboard and there is a basket full of dinosaurs to play with!

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Do you have a favorite restaurant game with your toddler? Please share in the comments!

Mosaic Art

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When I first spotted this craft idea online, the suggestion was to draw a picture and then cut into squares before gluing down to form a mosaic. It turns out Travis didn’t want to draw his own picture… but he did love making a mosaic from an existing Star Wars picture!

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I drew a grid on the page he selected and Travis loved cutting along the lines until we had 30 or so small squares.

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Note: It’s helpful to label these on the backside so that the mosaic comes together without frustration.

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We selected green construction paper as the background and then began gluing down the squares, leaving some green showing on all sides. This is also a great lesson in counting for kindergartners. Travis loved seeing the battle droids take shape again.

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At the end, we had a fun piece of mosaic artwork.

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Clothespin Number Match

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For this quick counting exercise, we used number flashcards from Travis’s summer workbook. You can easily make flashcards at home though featuring a set number of things on one side and the numeral on the other.

If you make your own, I recommend following the lead of the workbook we’re using, which presented novel ways to count things: two fingers, for example; five pips on a dice; or six marks on a playing card.

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I gave Travis all of the cards in a big pile and a bowl of clothespins. I thought he might consider the activity somewhat tiresome, but he loved the idea of clipping the pins to each card!

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After counting and telling me what the number on the front was, he checked his answer against the numeral on the back.

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Then it was time to reach into the bowl of clothespins!

He very carefully added and counted as he went, including for the highest numbers. “Can seven even fit?” he wondered while working on that card, and was thrilled when the answer was yes. Our card with 10 was a tight squeeze.

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This requires so many clothespins that sometimes we had to steal from finished cards to complete new ones. When there was only 1 clothespin left in the bowl, I challenged Travis to single out the card representing #1. Bingo!

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Overall, this is simple but good review for counting, and it gets those fine motor skills working, too.

Domino Steal Game

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On the heels of our starfish counting game, here’s another great way to reinforce numbers and number recognition before back-to-school. Dominoes lend themselves to any variety of counting games – including just matching up the pips! – but this version involves stealing from the other players. An instant preschooler hit!

To play, you need two players, whether two kids, or an adult and one child. Pull out two dominoes, and each player counts the number on theirs. This is great not just for learning to count the dots, but also learning to recognize the arrangement of the pips by sight.

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Whoever has the higher number on his or her domino wins that turn, and gets to “steal” the other players domino. Stealing was a big thrill of course! Here’s the thief in action:

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I swear I didn’t rig the game, but Travis ended up with quite the collection.

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When you’re done playing, I recommend leaving the dominoes out… They are a fantastic prompt for kids who want to arrange them, or play make-believe with them, or practice numbers on their own.

Starfish Counting Game

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This adorable game is a fun way to get kids counting (or memorizing by rote) the pips on dice. The beach-y starfish theme makes it just right for the end of summer, if you’re helping kids prep for back-to-school!

I drew two starfish free-hand (don’t judge my stars too harshly!) and added smiles and 10 dots to each (to represent the bumps along a true sea star’s arms).

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Set out the starfish as your playing boards, along with pom poms and dice.

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Take turns rolling the die, and add the appropriate number of pom poms to your starfish board. The first player to fill in all their bumps wins!

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In sum, a simple counting game that will boost kids’ confidence as they had back to the classroom.

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Our 100’s Jars Collection

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Back-to-school is just around the corner, and this activity is a fantastic way to get preschoolers and kindergartners thinking about numbers up to 100, as well as concepts like counting by 5’s and 10’s. All you need are a few empty glass jars and objects you already have around the house!

First I asked Travis if he could think of anything we had in the house that would number up to 100. He guessed toy cars (which might be true!) but I knew 100 cars wouldn’t fit in a jar.

I suggested we try coins, and soon we were emptying out his piggy bank.

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He quickly latched on to the idea that 10 groups of 10 would give us 100. I helped him count out 10 coins into each group, and then we counted the groups up: ten, twenty, thirty, and so on. Filling the jar was super exciting.

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Dried pasta was a bit hit to count for the next jar!

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This also showed him that 100 pasta shells took up more space than 100 coins.

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For our final jar, Travis chose shells.

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This time we grouped them into 20 groups of 5. He had a hard time following as I counted up by 5’s, but it was a good foundation to lay.

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In sum, this is a cute way to get your little one thinking about math, and so easy you can sneak it in between dinner and bath time! What do you have 100 of in your home? Please share in the comments!

Chalk Bullseye

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We’ve been having fun with chalk this week, whether traditional chalk or our own homemade version. For this game, we simply grabbed a piece of chalk and got drawing! You’ll combine a little exercise with a little math – always a bonus.

For the first variation, I drew a traditional bullseye, and labeled each inner circle ten points higher than the last. This is great for kids who are learning to count by tens.

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Dip a sponge in a bucket of water, than take your best shot at the bullseye. Bigger kids can even keep score over multiple rounds (make the sidewalk your scoresheet!) for addition practice.

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For something a little simpler, we also set up a shape and number review.  Write down numbers 1 through 5, each inside a different shape.

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As he threw, I had Travis shout out which one he was aiming for, i.e. rectangle 4 or heart 5.

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We lost our sunshine before we had very much time to play with these games, but we still had fun while the warm weather lasted!

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Green Time: Counting Walk

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Well, here we are in April but we’re just now getting the chance – a sunny, warm day! – to go on our Green Time adventure from March’s issue of Ranger Rick Jr. – a counting walk!

The magazine included a list of suggested things to count as you take a walk outside, including mailboxes, fire hydrants, and squirrels. We wanted a nice warm day so we’d be more likely to see a couple items on the list like dogs (out for a walk) and bicycle riders.

As we kept a tally of each item, I helped Travis decide what number was one higher than the number we’d said before.

By far we found the most mailboxes – 10!

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Meanwhile Travis loved spotting hydrants – 2!

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We nearly thought we’d end the walk with zero bicycles until a man went cycling past us. Travis was very proud to make the tally.

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And because he loves them, Travis decided we needed to count pickup trucks in driveways as well – for a grand total of 7.

Overall, this was a great exercise – not just for the legs but for the mind as well!

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Life Size Board Game

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We loved this giant take on a board game, using our own bodies as the playing pieces! It’s a great way to burn off some physical energy indoors, plus work on counting skills, turn taking, and playing a game by the rules.

To set up your “board” all you need is painter’s tape. I made squares around the carpet in a pattern for us to move forward. If you want to make the game a bit more complex, add another shape (such as diamonds) that mean “move back one space.”

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I threw together a very quick giant dice by taping construction paper on the sides of a tissue box and adding pips with a sharpie. If you have the time, glue on your construction paper for a more elegant look!

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Now it was time to toss the dice. Travis delighted in throwing the giant cube.

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He was quicker than I would have guessed at counting the pips, yelling out the numbers and then taking proud giant steps from square to square.

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We have a winner!

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We also played a version using big toy cars in a car race, driving them the right number of spaces forward with each roll.

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If you create a giant board game, please share any variations or ideas in the comments, we’d love to hear!