Monday, May 7, 2018

25+ Hands-On Math Activities for Toddlers

Math for toddlers? You might wonder what I mean. It is not like toddlers are doing addition or subtraction... right?

Did you know that you begin teaching simple math concepts to children long before they ever enter a classroom? There are so many ways to embed learning math concepts like counting, measuring, and identifying more and less through simple daily experiences along with easy activities that you can enjoy alongside your child.

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My husband loves math and he grew up doing math problems and talking about numbers all of the time. My kids love it too! On the other hand, math was my least favorite subject. As I became an elementary school teacher and found more ways to teach math to kids with different learning styles (and in a more hands-on way), I began to love it!

I am going to share some quick and easy-to-set-up activities that help you introduce your child to some simple math concepts! We are going to start with NUMBERS and OPERATIONS!


This means understanding the concept of number, quantity, order, ways of representing numbers, one-to-one correspondence (that one object corresponds to one number), and counting.

Some examples from the NAEYC include...

“You have two eyes, and so does your bear. Let’s count:--1, 2.”

“I have more crackers than you do. See, I have 1, 2, 3, and you have 1, 2. I’m going to eat one of mine. Now I have the same as you!”

“That’s the third time I’ve heard you say mama. You’ve said mama three times!”

When we understand math concepts, we can use what we know as we interact with our children each day. 


Kids need to be able to...

  • count forward and backwards
  • recognize what a number looks like and name it
  • understand one-to-one correspondence (each number corresponds to one specific quantity)

Kids will do all of these things at different stages. Some kids will be fascinated with counting to 10 or 20 way before others are. Just because they can count up to 20, doesn't mean they actually know what they are doing or what that means. Rote counting and matching numbers is only a beginning stage to start understanding numbers. 

When we are exploring numbers with toddlers it is all through PLAY and every day experiences and interactions! This is not the time to break out flashcards or do drill and kill rote learning activities. 

The number activities we are sharing below are simple and playful. They help teach the math concepts shared above while allowing you to connect with your child. 

Some of the concepts that toddlers will begin to understand are listed below...

  • They understand "more" and "enough" and "no more."
  • They also may understand the words one and two or "pick two." 
  • Many two-year-olds can hold up two fingers to show you. 
  • Some two-year-olds will be able to recite numbers words in sequence or may be able to identify some numbers. 
  • Many will still recite numbers out of order. 

There is a broad spectrum of abilities during the toddler years. Each toddler will be different. I encourage you to focus on exploring these math concepts and not worry about comparing your toddler with their peers or trying to rush them to mastery of these skills.


1. Match Numbers

Matching numbers is a simple way to teach kids to recognize numbers and be able to say their names. These activities are great for helping kids learn to recognize, name, and match numbers.

Leaf Number Movement Game

Car Parking Match Game by Housing a Forest

Cup Number Matching Game by Laughing Kids Learn

Sticky Number Match Activity by Busy Toddler

Number Dig and Match- Happy Toddler Playtime

2. Sing rhymes and counting songs

Rhymes and songs are great for teaching math concepts! They really stick into memories and kids love using their hands to help them sing as well. When you pair music with movement, kids retain so much more! If you click on each rhyme or song, you'll be taken to a YouTube video where you can listen or watch and sign along!

Ten Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree

There Were Ten In The Bed

Two Little Blackbirds

Five Green, Speckled Frogs

The Ants Go Marching

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

One Potato, Two Potato

3. Count together

These simple, but fun activities are great for helping kids count from 1-10 and even higher in a playful way!

Counting Movement Game

Race to Lose a Tooth Counting Game

Boat Sink Challenge

Candy Cane Hunt and Match

Number Toy Hunt

Counting Croquet

4. Read books about numbers

These are a few of our favorite books that explore numbers and counting! They are simple, colorful, and short to read.

Chicka Chicka 123 by Bill Martin Jr.

10 Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth

Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book by Karen Katz

My Very First Book of Numbers by Eric Carle

Eight Silly Monkeys by Steve Haskamp

5. Play with numbers

These number activities are great for helping your toddler explore numbers while also moving, exploring, and playing!

Do you have any other simple ways that you like to embed math into everyday life?


  • Count cars as you are driving
  • As you collect items at the grocery store, count them up
  • Go on a number hunt at the store, on a walk, or while you are driving
  • Count together and count the eggs that are added, tablespoons, etc.
  • Play "pick up 5" and see if everyone can pick up 5 toys in a messy room and put them away
  • Hunt for specific numbers on license plates
  • Workout together! Count jumping jacks, laps around the kitchen, and push ups!
  • Build with blocks- work together to create a tower with a specific number of blocks and then count them together
  • Count when you are having snack! Encourage your child to eat 5 raisins or 3 slices of apples. Count them up together.

What else do you do?

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