How to Teach Preschoolers to Count by Tens

By Sara Ipatenco
Preschoolers should know how to count by the time they start kindergarten.
Preschoolers should know how to count by the time they start kindergarten.

Counting is an essential preschool skill that lays the foundation for learning math concepts such as number order, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. Your preschooler can probably count by ones quite easily, so now is a good time to teach her how to count by tens. She may not grasp the idea that learning to count by tens is preparing her to understand decimal points and place value as she gets older, but she is bound to enjoy showing off her new skill.

Give your preschooler a large collection of small objects and let him study them for a few minutes. Ask him how many things he thinks you've given him and let him suggest ways that you could work together to find out exactly how many items are in the pile.

Tell your preschooler that there is an easier way to discover the answer instead of counting the items by ones. Let your child know that counting by tens is often faster and simpler than counting by ones.

Help your child separate the items into piles of 10. Count the items together and keep the piles separate. You might place each group of 10 into a small container to help your child distinguish between each group and to help him keep them separated.

Demonstrate to your child how to count by tens by pointing to one pile or container at a time and slowly counting 10, 20, 30 and so on until you've counted all the piles or containers.

Invite your preschooler to count the items by tens with you. Practice together several times until your child catches onto the concept.

Challenge your child to count the item by tens on his own. This will allow you to assess his skills and determine how well he's catching on.

Encourage your preschooler to count other things by tens. Perhaps he would like to separate his peas into piles of 10 and see how many you've served him. Or, maybe he would enjoy serving himself 100 pieces of cereal for breakfast in the morning. Continued practice will give him the confidence to count by tens and will help cement the concept in his brain.


Use items that are interesting to your child to teach him how to count by tens. If your preschooler loves dinosaurs, use small plastic dinosaurs. If your preschooler has a passion for art, use crayons. Using something your child already enjoys will increase motivation for practicing how to count, according to American Library Association.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.