3 Simple Numbers and Counting Activities

Here are my three current favorite numbers and counting math activities for my 4-year-old.  He really likes these and so do I!  I’ve noticed a big improvement in his interest in numbers and his number sense since we’ve started these.  

Luke is not overly enthusiastic about math, so I love that we can sneak these activities into really short periods of time and that they’re pretty fun, and require virtually no setup, so you can pull them out anytime you have an extra minute or two!

3 Simple Numbers and Counting Activities

numbers and counting

1.  Counting on an abacus — We do counting by 1’s and counting by 10’s on the abacus so far.  See this post for more details.  Before we started this, I never heard Luke count items of more than 10 on his own during play.  Since we’ve done this for the past two months or so, I now hear him count items into the teens and twenties with perfect one-to-one matching.  My 2-1/2 year old can now count items up to 10 with one-to-one matching, too! 🙂

numbers and counting

2.  0-99 Number Cups — I got the idea from this pin.  I wrote 0-9 around the rim of two plastic cups (saved from restaurants) in two different colors of marker.  You can make any number from 00-99 by turning the cups.  

numbers and counting numbers and counting
numbers and counting
numbers and counting

We play several different “games” with the number cups.  

  1. He makes a number and reads it.  
  2. I’ll make a number and he reads it. 
  3. I’ll call out a number and he makes it. 
  4. He’ll call out a number and I’ll make it.
  5. We’ll do a random spin of the cups and read a number.
  6. We’ll do a random spin of the cups and then read the numbers all the way around the rim before turning the cups again.
  7. I’ll write a number on paper and have him make it with the cups.
  8. We’ll talk about a real-life number (i.e. “Daddy will be 31 on his birthday.” or “There are 56 pages in this book.”) and then make the number with the cups.
  9. I’ll ask a question that has a number answer and he will answer by making the number with the cups.  (“What number was the Richard Petty “The King” race car?” A: 43)
  10. We’ll make a number and then I’ll ask what number comes before or after it.

Yeah, yeah…I admit that the average person may not call these games…BUT…if you smile, call it a game, AND use your happy voice when you play, you may be surprised at what you can pass as a “game” with a preschooler. 😉 
We keep the cups sitting on the kitchen table so that we pick them up often to play with for a few minutes here and there; we seldom use these for any sustained activity…we’ll make 2-3 different numbers and then move on to something else.  

numbers and counting

When Luke has mastered 0-99, I’ll add a 3rd cup (like pictured in the original pin) and he’ll be able to do numbers up to 999.  His favorite number to make with the two cups is 99–he makes that number first EVERY time.

numbers and counting

3. 100s Charts Activities — I’ve been printing and using these hundreds charts coloring activities from Lil’ Country Kindergarten.  The child is given a 100 chart with a key at the top to tell them what numbers to color a certain color.  In the end, they’ve created some sort of picture.  We’ve done two so far (the Valentine’s one in February and the Cat in the Hat in March) and I’ve sat with Luke and helped guide him through both.  This is definitely a challenging activity for him, so sometimes I break it up and we do one color in one sitting and the other at a different time because I don’t want him to get frustrated.

numbers and counting
Luke completed this one around Valentine’s Day.
You can print these here.


We completed The Cat in the Hat this month on two separate days.
We split the black numbers into two separate times, too, since
there were so many black numbers to color.
You can print these here.

Does your child have any favorite numbers and counting activities?

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Tabitha Moon says:

    I love all the ideas with the cups!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • This is brilliant! I am going to do with JDaniel. I have pinned this post.

  • Melissa says:

    I tried the cups, but the ink smeared off. Did you use special pens? Thanks!

  • […] over the place if you know what I mean.  Typically once a day or a couple of times a week, we grab our abacus and count by 1s to 100 on it.  Sometimes I move the beads, sometimes one kid or the other does it, […]

  • […] 0-99 Number Cupsby In Lieu of Preschool […]

  • Samantha Ransted says:

    That’s a really good Idea with the cups im gonna use that with my 3yr old, 4yr old sn 5 yr old I play a game where ever we go of spot the number we use car number plates door numbers bus numbers ect also another 1 we do is see how many numbers we can get out of a number plate another one is spot the eg red car to learn them colours I always say the colour before the word for example pass me your green hat, when I make toast I ask what shape they want it cut in then cut it to that shape very time consuming for 5 kids lol another 1 i do is buy the maths and literacy exercise books an let them work through it at there own pace obviously helping them if they get stuck but as well as learning it keeps them quiet for 5 mins

  • Magda says:

    Thanks! What an awesome idea. Can’t wait to try it with my daughter.

  • sangeeta says:

    Thanks.It’s a very useful tip for moms.I must try it.

  • Dawn says:

    The cup recognition games is simply awesome thinking on your part! Way to reuse and item to teach. I will use this with my 4 year old class.

  • sonali says:

    Innovative idea.Thanks for sharing.

  • Ruth Patterson says:

    Thanks for the idea. Sometimes the simplest things work wonders.
    This would be a great way to teach 3-letter words or rhyming words.

  • Hetal says:

    It’s so simple and inexpensive way to teach them using cups?? I will surely try with my 2.5 yr old princess . At present we have just stated jumping on even numbers on floor tiles . I write even numbers 2,4,6,8
    with spacing of one tile (with white chalk ) and she loves and loves jumping on that .

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