Counting tips for parents

Maths can be fun for you and your child to learn together. Counting is a basic skill your child will need and can build on later. You can use 10 tips to help your child with counting - including starting easy, using household items, computers, shapes and sizes.

Counting can be fun and entertaining

The earlier a child is taught to count, the better prepared they will be when they start school. Begin counting as early as possible. You can start by counting things that you see every day.

Before your child can walk and talk, you can count fingers and toes, stairs and toys.  As they get older, they can join in and count with you. Count everything and anything with your child.

Sing counting songs such as "One, two buckle my shoe". Play Hopscotch – it's a counting game. There are other counting games such as Snakes and Ladders, Dominoes, Uno and Ludo.

Online counting games

You can use computer games to help your child count. Only use games that are "parent approved". There are also websites that have fun maths games.

Different ways to count

Once they understand counting in ones, you can introduce skip counting, such as counting in twos and fives.

Counting household items

Count the number of items or toys as you put these back in the box. Sort the washing into different colours, pair the socks or count and match the clothes pegs. Or when putting away the shopping, count how many tins of beans or cartons of milk you’ve bought.

Practise adding and subtracting with with younger children. For older children practise multiplying and dividing.

Explore our child's curiosity

Go on a number hunt together and discover places where numbers are used such as:

  • a clock
  • television
  • computer keyboard
  • calendar
  • telephones
  • car licence plates

Counting the beats to your child’s favourite song and getting them to clap their hands or stamp their feet to the beat is a fun way to get your child counting. Use a whistle or other object that makes a noise and get your child to count the number of times you make the noise.

Use family activities

Your child's world is filled with everyday number problems to solve. For example, "There are four people in this family and each needs a knife and a fork to eat dinner. How many knives and forks are needed on the table?" Encourage your child to help sort the clothes as you put them into individual piles for each member of the family or sort the socks, t-shirts and trousers.


Using art is a way to help your child count. You can:

  • draw numbers on paper and ask your child to colour the numbers
  • make numbers by sticking on beads, dried pasta or drinking straws on paper

Use different books that show pictures of animals for your child to count and talk about their colour or shape. When your child shows an interest in numbers and tries to write them on paper, you can show them how to write the number correctly.

Learning how to measure 

Your child naturally learns to use words to compare the things they see, for example ‘bigger’ or ‘smaller’ and ‘taller’ or shorter’. They then learn about the tools needed for measuring things, like scales for weight, tape measures and rulers for length.

Get them to compare the lengths or weights of two objects; ask them to fill and empty containers in the bath or safely at the sink or bake some buns and ask your child to help you measure out the ingredients. It may be a bit messy but it's fun family time and there's nothing like a bun as a reward.

Talk about time

The concept of time can be hard to grasp. Talk to your children about minutes and hours. Then get them to try counting days and weeks – for example how many 'sleeps' until the weekend or a visit to a friend or relative.

Learning about different shapes 

Play 'I Spy'. Instead of looking for words beginning with a letter, look for different colours or shapes and count the number you find in the room. Look and talk about the shapes of the street signs you see on the way to the shops or the park. Ask them to say what is the same or different in the shapes they see.

Look at everyday objects and find words to describe them. Ask them if they see squares, circles or triangles.

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