Are you teaching your child to identify numbers? Here are some fun and interactive number recognition games for preschoolers and kindergarteners that you can play at home or in the classroom too.
If you’re wondering how to teach number recognition, the answer in early childhood is always through play.
Play is the natural way in which children learn. During play, children practice their skills and make sense of new knowledge and experiences. They develop early maths skills through play.
Remember that there are many aspects to learning about numbers. There is learning to count, which you can teach with games and counting songs, and then there’s one-to-one correspondence, which is when a child reliably counts one object at a time.
Number recognition is about the physical appearance and shape of a number, as well as what value it represents.
These number recognition activities for preschoolers are a great place to start teaching the numbers from 1 to 10, but once you get going you’ll quickly notice opportunities all around you!
1. Parking Cars
This numbers game can be adapted to suit your child’s age, stage and interests.
Write numbers onto some toy cars and create a parking garage with numbered spaces. Your child can then match the number on the car with the number in the space and park the car correctly.
If he needs more of a challenge replace the numerals with dots or words so that your child can begin to recognise numbers being represented pictorially.
If your child is not particularly interested in cars you could do a similar game with animals, or dolls, or whatever it is that your child enjoys playing with.
2. Car Wash
Put numbers on toy cars, or for a large scale activity; bikes and scooters. Create a car wash for them with clothes, brushes, water and bubbles.
Your child is then in charge of ensuring that the cars, bikes, or scooters come to the car wash and get cleaned in the correct order. As well as recognising numerals, this activity gives your child the chance to begin learning about number order.
3. Hook a Duck
This fairground classic is great for numeral recognition. How you set this up is your choice.
If you have lots of ducks and something to hook them with then perhaps you could create a replica of the fairground game, otherwise feel free to improvise with what you have at hand.
A net or bowl to scoop objects out of the bath could work well – the important thing is for your child to be having fun and looking at numbers. You could allocate prizes to certain numbers if you want to.
4. Sidewalk Chalk
Sidewalk chalk is brilliant for larger-scale mark-making and games that get children using their gross motor skills.
Use sidewalk chalk to write out large numerals, then give your child a paintbrush and a pot of water and have them paint over the numerals with water to erase them.
Not only does this help your child to recognise numerals but also helps with the beginnings of formation.
5. Beads onto Pipe Cleaners
Create a chart using beads and pipe cleaners. Attach 10 pipe cleaners to a piece of card and write numbers 1-10, one number above each pipe cleaner. Provide your child with a pot of beads and help them to count out the correct number onto each pipe cleaner.
This activity gives your child the opportunity to practice numeral recognition, counting, and assigning the correct value to each numeral. It’s also brilliant for their fine motor skills!
6. Bean Bag Toss
Label some buckets or baskets with numbers and provide your child with beanbags. Have your child step back from the buckets and take aim and throw the bean bags in.
You can do quite a lot with this activity depending on your child’s age, stage and needs, but on the most basic level, it encourages number recognition along with introducing the concept of more and less.
If your child is ready then you can model addition and play to win.
7. Putting Counters in Pots
Label pots with numerals and provide counters, craft beads, pom poms or really whatever you have at hand and encourage your child to fill each pot with the correct number of items.
Again, this activity targets a variety of different skills as children recognise numerals, apply their understanding of value, and count out the correct number of items. Another good one for fine motor skills!
8. Create an Outdoor Number Line
Children love to learn outdoors and on a large scale. Many teachers love using small number lines in the classroom to introduce the ideas of one more and one less but you can do the same outside.
Perhaps use chalk to draw out your number line and encourage your child to locate different numerals – “Stand on number 8,” “Hop to number 4” and so on.
If appropriate you could discuss one more and one less. You could also use the number line to encourage counting by inviting your child to find 1 item to place next to the number 1, 2 items to place next to the number 2 and so on.
9. Nature’s Numerals
If your child likes to be creative and artistic then this could work for her. Use nature to create the shapes of numbers.
This might mean drawing in the mud or sand, arranging leaves or stones or even noticing natural shapes in the environment. You could do this in your back yard or take a special walk.
Even better if you can take photos of your creations for your child to look back on. This allows your child to begin thinking about how numerals are formed, but in a fun and creative way.
Hopscotch is a real playground classic and it brings together a whole host of skills including gross motor skills.
Draw out a hopscotch grid and teach your child how to play, throwing a stone or stick to find out where he needs to hop to, and then hopping and jumping to the end.
As well as reinforcing the recognition of numerals this also introduces the idea of higher and lower and allows your child to have fun while working with numbers.
Hopscotch is my favourite number activity for preschool kids!
11. Potion Recipes
If you like messy, creative play then this one’s for you!
Create a couple of ‘recipe cards’ using measurements expressed as numerals, for example – 2 cups of water, 3 pinecones and have your child follow the recipe card, combining everything together in a big cauldron-like tub.
This taps into children’s imaginations and introduces the concept of measurement as well as number. Once your child is finished following the recipes you have provided perhaps he will be ready to create his own recipes, which you can scribe for him.
12. Number Splat
All you need is a nice big roll of paper with numbers on and a fly swat dipped in paint. You call out the numbers and your child must swat them, thereby covering them in paint! This is a really fun preschool number activity.
You can play just as easily without the paint, simply swatting at the numerals, but it’s far less fun than making a mess.
This activity is extremely physical helping to really embed the learning, and as your child tries to speed up, her ability to recognise numerals will improve too so that she’ll soon be able to recognise them at a glance.
Bingo is a great maths game for building up number awareness and can be enjoyed as a family. To start off with you can simply use numerals up to ten but as your child’s knowledge expands so can your game.
You can use what you have on hand – a bowl and folded up pieces of paper, with highlighters – or you can go ahead and buy bingo pads and dabbers and bingo balls to add to the overall experience.
Here you will be building number recognition and as your child aims to increase their speed, she will get quicker and quicker at recognising numbers and linking them to the number names being called out!
I hope you’ll enjoy trying out these number recognition games with your preschooler! Here are some more fun math activities for preschoolers to build early mathematical skills.
Would you like a year of done-for-you, ten-minute activities to teach your 3-5-year-old through play? Get your copy of the Learning Through Play Activity Pack for only $27.