Headstart for Life

Hi friends! I am back on Headstart for Life’s blog Beyond Therapy with my first post this year! And I am excited to discuss a new series – Meaningful Maths in the early years!

We have numbers all around us – in phones, remotes, clocks, microwaves, lifts, houses, cars, streets, etc. These surroundings should be taken as opportunities to build a solid foundation in mathematical skills in the early years. Besides teachers in school, parents can play a vital role to play in helping their children develop better counting skills.

One of the basic skills to start with is counting with one-to-one correspondence. So what does this mean? This implies that when counting to determine “how many,” each number word should be applied to only one item in the set. The child has to co-ordinate saying the number names with taking the objects one by one. Some kids might end up saying more than one number for each object; while some others might take more than one object per number. Or, they might count an object twice.

Here are some ways – by using and building on everyday situations and family routines, playing games, and observing – which can be easy tools for improving on counting by correspondence. By no means, should this skill be confused with “rote counting”. Rote counting merely consists of counting the numbers sequentially! I have often come across puzzled parents who are not sure why their toddler is not able to hand over two spoons or five cars, even though the child can count from 1 to 20.


Here are some ideas and tools that should make things easier!

1. Let them help out in setting the table.

Children learn in various ways and sometimes they learn better when lessons are presented in meaningful fun ways.

You can ask your child to get one napkin for each member of the family during meals and he counts as he hands out each piece.

He can also distribute snacks for everyone and counts as he does so.



They can set a cup or drinking glass for every one saucer before meals. Consider using plastic cups so he can hold some on one hand as he goes around the table putting 1 cup on the saucer at a time. Don’t forget to count as he does so!


2. Use visual cues.


Forks and spoons can be laid on an anchor chart. So, he counts as he matches each piece of utensils.

functional counting forks

Image courtesy: http://www.aspecialsparkle.com


Collect several empty containers with lids. Lay them out on the table, and ask him to place one lid on each of the containers.




Muffin tins tray based activities can be tried with fit-in fruits, balls, shapes, etc. You can try to make this task more challenging by giving extra pieces, and help the child understand why there is a problem!

tin muf 1

Image courtesy : muffintinmommy.com

tin muf 2


Using a five or ten frame is a great way to provide kids with a system to organize and match objects as they count them. Ask kids to place one object in each square as they say each number.


5 frame

Image courtesy : www.earlylearningideas.com


10 frame


I hope you enjoy these counting activities with your little one! These are just some of the activities listed here – you can get creative and think of many more ideas!



Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach by Douglas H. Clements and Julie Sarama.


"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Kokila

Kokila has been working with children with learning difficulties for the last 2 years. She strongly believes that early intervention, teamwork, consistency and thinking "+1" from the current level are the most effective elements that translate into visible progress shown by children with learning difficulties.

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