Fun, two, three: learning numerical skills through play


“As modern-day adults, we need to remind ourselves that our children also have full-time jobs. Their work is to play and it’s a highly-skilled occupation that we need to encourage and nurture.”  — Chantel Nortje, Physiotherapist with special interest in Paediatrics.

When they’re young, kids learn best through play. Instead of making number recognition and learning to count a chore, why not turn it into a game or activity that the whole family can enjoy? No matter whether you pull out the old-school card and board games (rather than the tablet!), tackle some puzzles or count marshmallows, most kids love hands-on activities – especially when they get to spend time with mom or dad.

Here are some simple and entertaining activities that will engage your little one while teaching valuable numerical skills.

  • Counting treats

A wonderful way to encourage your child to practise counting – first from 1 to 5, then from 1 to 10, and then from 1 to 15 or 20 – is to place the relevant number of marshmallows, jellybeans, popcorn or even fresh berries into a bowl on the table. Ask your child to count how many items are in the bowl by taking them out one by one and placing them into another empty bowl on the table. Once they have done this confidently, you can give them the treats as a reward.

  • Bake together

While there will no doubt be a little (or lot) of mess to contend with at the end of your session, baking with kids is a wonderful way to boost their concentration skills and introduce maths concepts in a fun way. Ask your little one to count out the eggs, cups of flour or spoons of honey. Older kids can measure out the liquids or dry ingredients.  If you are making biscuits, ask your child to cut out as many cookie shapes as possible from one piece of dough – and you’ll help to promote his or her spatial perception and planning skills as well.

  • Card games

Using a classic deck of cards, you can teach your older pre-schooler how to play a few simple card games such as ‘Snap’ and ‘Go Fish’ which involve number recognition and matching. These games are great to play with older siblings or grandparents when they come round to visit, which will help your little one to develop his or her social skills at the same time.

  • Good, clean fun

While you’re washing behind the ears, distract your little one with the bath-time Alphabet & Numbers set from Tower kids. These re-usable EVA foam number and letter stickers help to develop your child’s numerical skills and increase their familiarity with the alphabet in a fun, splashy way.

  • Mosaic by numbers

One crafty activity that most kids (and parents) love is to create colourful mosaic pictures. Now, Tower kids is adding some numbers into the mix with the Mosaic by Numbers Multi-pack. This family activity provides hours of edutainment, helping little ones to recognise and match numbers while also developing the smaller muscles of their hands and fingers for enhanced fine motor skills.

  • Car sing-a-long

When you’re stuck in traffic or heading out of town on holiday, teach your kids some traditional nursery rhymes and songs which focus on counting and number sequencing, such as ‘One, two, buckle my shoe’, ‘Five little monkeys’ and ‘Ten green bottles’. This will help to keep boredom at bay while nurturing their numerical skills.

For more information, ideas and inspiration, visit