Are you teaching your children 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 number 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 children’s age, stage and interests.
Write numbers onto some toy cars and create a parking garage with numbered spaces. Your children can then match the number on the car with the number in the space and park the car correctly.
If they need more of a challenge replace the numerals with dots or words so that your kids can begin to recognise numbers being represented pictorially.
If they are not particularly interested in cars you could do a similar game with animals, dolls, or whatever it is that they enjoy 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 children are 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 kids 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 children 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 kids a paintbrush and a pot of water and have them paint over the numerals with water to erase them.
Not only does this help them 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 children with a pot of beads and help them to count out the correct number on each pipe cleaner.
This activity gives them the opportunity to practise 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 children with beanbags. Have them 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 children’s age and ability, but on the most basic level, it encourages number recognition along with introducing the concept of more and less.
If your children are 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 children 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. This is 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 children 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 children 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 children like to be creative and artistic then this could work for them. 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 backyard or take a special walk.
Even better if you can take photos of your creations for your kids to look back on. This allows them to begin thinking about how numerals are formed 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 children how to play, throwing a stone or stick to find out where they need 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 kids 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 and 3 pinecones, and have your children 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 numbers. Once they are finished following the recipes you have provided perhaps they will be ready to create their own recipes, which you can scribe for them.
12. Number Splat
All you need is a nice big roll of paper with numbers on it and a fly swat dipped in paint. You call out the numbers and children 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 children try to speed up, their ability to recognise numerals will improve too so that they’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 children’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 kids aim to increase their speed, they will get quicker and quicker at recognising numbers and linking them to the number names being called out.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these number identification games for preschoolers. Here are some more fun math activities for preschoolers to build early mathematical skills.
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