How to Introduce Numbers to Toddlers (Ages 1 to 3 years)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I am sharing this as I have received multiple emails from fellow Mommies, asking how did I introduce numbers and counting to Mavi. To answer your questions, here are  the Math-related activities I gave to Mavi when he was about one to three years old. Note that the timeline of the activities here are not in order.
1]  Familiarization of Numbers using playdough. We made number symbols using PlayDoh.  I first introduced 1-9 and as we progressed we did 10 to 19. I shared our Numbers and Letter playdoh mats last year, FREE Numbers and Letters Playdoh Mats.

2] Number matching puzzle.  This is one activity I kept on repeating.  You can check out this number matching puzzles in Amazon

3] Matching number symbols to objects.  I randomly made this using a cardstock.  As you look closer, I just draw the objects and then used water bottle caps for the numbers. He loves those water bottle caps! 

4] 1 to 1 Correspondence.  Again, I just made the graph.  He counts the number of circles (with the number symbol on the side) by putting a stamp on it.  Here, I showed him that the number represents the amount of circles present. There also learning materials in Amazon that can help reinforce this concept. My favorite are these:

5] Numbers and Stickers.  Oh how my son loved this!! I cut out pieces of paper, write a number on the upper left side and place the same number of dots.  Then Mavi and I would count along as we cover those dots with stickers.  After which point to your child that the number of dots/sticker is represented by that number symbol.

6] Pin Colored/Counting Wheel.  I honestly forgot the source of this material but this is one of our favourite.  I labeled wooded pegs with numbers and colors so we can match them with the ones in the wheel. (If you happen to know the source please leave me a message!)

7] Montessori-Inspired Activity.  The concept behind here is similar to the Montessori Numbered Spindle Box.  I used plastic cups and craft sticks instead.  Labeled the cups with numbers and asked Mavi to place the correct amount of sticks in each cup.

8] Do a Dot Markers.  Now this is not necessary but I just have to mention that we love these markers and we love using it in counting!  I still have these markers which I bought in Singapore in 2011.  I can't wait to use them with Vito.  You can get these in Amazon US, Do A Dot Art! Markers 6-Pack Rainbow Washable Paint Markers.
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9]  Homemade version of Montessori Number Rods.  So I made number rods using foam and used magnetic numbers for the symbol.  This helps a child develop an understanding of the quantitative relationship between numbers.  Here's the link in Amazon US if you are thinking of buying one, Montessori Counting Rods.

10]  Ordering numbers.  So simple, we used magnetic numbers and I just wrote the numbers 0 to 9 on a piece of cardstock for the control chart.  At first Mavi would match the magnetic numbers to the numbers in the cardstock.  As we progress, I made him match the numbers in order of what is written. We would recite the numbers after each activity.  Repetition of this activity will help the child understand the concept of ordering and counting.  Here are some suggested links if you want to get your own magnetic numbers:

11] Number Crafts. Oh the first activity on numbers!! Expose them to number symbols similar to your alphabets.  You can do this by doing crafts or reading books together.

12] Number Flashcards.  Oh we found a way to make our flashcards useful.  We counted those pictures on the flashcards using counting chips. My son loved this!!!
These are all easy to prepare math activities and I hope that I was able to give you enough ideas to bootstrap your math learning journey with your young one/s.

Happy Sunday!


  1. Do you mind me asking where did you get your beads? I find it hard to buy beads. Thanks.