Q&A: How Can I Teach My 3 Year Old to Count?

CME WebsitesChild Development, Pre-Schoolers 36 - 60 Months

blockquote_bgMy three year old knows every movie like Spiderman. He knows Peter Parker and Ben 10, etc., but when it come to counting, he only stops at three, skips numbers 18, 20 and so on. I tried to teach him to count but now I am running out of patience. I told him no more TV until he counts to 5 or 10. Can you please help me to make it easy for him to remember?

What is more important at age 3 is not that your son can use rote memorization to count (for example reciting the numbers 1-10 on command), but rather that he understands the “concept” of numbers, which will help him in reciting numbers by memory or rather sequencing numbers correctly and not missing numbers. Instead of just making him practice telling you 1-10 or 1-20 simply from memory, play games at snack time with cereal or fruit.

For example, telling him “I am giving you 3 pieces of cereal, help me count them…one, two, three” then ask him to give you “one” piece of cereal out of many and then two pieces and gradually build up until he counts concrete objects and can give you two things or three things when you ask for them, showing an understanding of the concept of numbers. Play games around the house that involve counting, asking “how many plates are on the table? Let’s count them, one, two, three, four”. Sing songs or use rhymes that involve numbers such as “Ten in the Bed” or “Five Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed”. You can find lyrics/words online. You can make your own flashcards with pictures of the numbers as well, so that he learns to recognize the numbers, pulling out the card for number 4 and asking him to identify the number and then give you four Cheerios, etc. There are also many preschool counting books available such as My First Look at Numbers by Random House. Here’s a website where you may find more preschool math related games to play.