Being able to count is the foundational math skill that children need to know in order to learn other math concepts. According to Education.com, one of the best ways parents can foster basic math skills is to engage kids in enjoyable counting activities and also relate counting to routine experiences. Choose activities that will keep your toddler engaged, entertained, and counting real world, everyday objects.
Sing kiddie songs with your toddler that including counting something. For instance, you could sing "5 Little Monkeys," which goes, "Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed. One fell off and bumped his head. The mama called the doctor and the doctor said, 'no more monkeys jumping on the bed!' " The song repeats with "four little monkeys" and so forth. Have your toddler hold up the correct number of monkeys on her hands as she sings along. For another counting song, you could "10 in a Bed," which goes, "There were 10 in the bed and the little one said, 'roll over, roll over.' So they all rolled over and one fell off, there were nine in the bed ..." The song continues until you get to 0. You could also make up your own counting songs. Use familiar nursery rhyme tunes that will help her remember the song better.
Counting Household Objects
Just about any object in your house that you have multiples of can be used to help your toddler with counting, but his own toys might keep his interest the most. If your toddler has toy cars, for example, you can have him count them in a variety of ways, including by groups based on color, by size, and the total of all his cars. If he is in the living room with you, have him count the buttons on the TV remote control, compared to the amount on the DVD remote. In the bathroom, he can count the shower curtain rings, or the shelves in the medicine cabinet, or as many shower tiles as he can. In the kitchen, he can count the fruit in your fruit basket, or the silverware you are putting out for dinner in the dining room. Take every opportunity you can to encourage his counting skills.
Play simple counting games with your tot. For one game that helps with number recognition, label the bottom of 10 paper cups from one to 10. Turn the cups upside down and put a small toy or a small treat underneath a few of them. Call out those cups with the hidden treats. For example, you could say, "What's under cup number 5? Can you find the number 5?" Your toddler looks for the cup labeled "5" and finds the item underneath it. If he doesn't get it right, keep encouraging him to try again. For a variation of this game you could put the corresponding amount of objects under each cup. For example, you might put five cotton balls underneath cup number five and two blueberries under cup number 2. For another game, take your tot outside and have him stand a few feet away from you. Have your toddler come to you taking a certain amount of steps in a funny manner. For instance, you could have him take four bunny hops, or six backward steps toward you.
Real World Counting
Encourage your toddler to count items when you are out and about. The grocery store is an excellent opportunity for this. Have him count the number of fruits and vegetables that you are putting in the count. Let him grab them himself if possible. Have him sort and count items as well, like red apples versus green apples. You can also do some counting on outings to places like the zoo. At each of the animal exhibits, have your toddler count the amount of each kind of animal he spots. Have him count how many mailboxes, or telephone poles during a walk around your neighborhood.