Counting Cups Activity

3.8 based on 73 ratings
Updated on Feb 8, 2013

One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Who knew that a simple childhood game could help your kindergartener master math? But while it may never occur to your child that he's doing anything more than playing, counting games are a great way to get your kindergartener engaged in math.

Take one-to-one correspondence, an important skill that is mastered in kindergarten. In a nutshell, one-to-one correspondence means children are able to count a group of objects, while touching each object, one at a time. (Kind of like that one potato game...) While this concept might seem obvious, it's more advanced than just counting out loud, which is called "rote counting" because it takes things to the next level-- associating spoken numbers with real objects. Give your child some hands-on practice with what teachers call good ‘number sense’, with this easy activity.

What You Need:

  • 11 paper cups
  • markers
  • 55 small objects (like cotton balls, pennies, beans, pasta, jelly beans, screws, or anything else that's fun to touch)

What You Do:

  1. After you've decided on the counting objects, get 11 medium-sized paper cups. Write the numbers 0 through 10 on each cup. Then mix up the cups and give them to your child. Ask your child to place the cups in order from smallest to biggest.
  2. Give your child a collection of 55 objects. Tell her that the point of the game is to look at the number on each cup and put in the matching amount of objects. Be sure to remind your child to count out loud as she places each object in the cup. This helps to reinforce her counting skills and lets you assess her ability to count with one-to-one correspondence.
  3. When your child is finished, empty the cups one at a time and have her check that the number of objects matches the number on the cup.
  4. As your child develops accuracy and fluency working with 0 to 10, increase the numbers by increments of five, eventually working up to 30. It's not necessary to begin at 0 each time. Start in a place that's comfortable, and go as high as she can. As she gets better, pull the cups out in random order. See if she can do the game without the cups ascending. It makes things much trickier!

All done? No need to throw the materials away. Keep a “counting box” in the house with various items that are safe for your child to count independently, and a set of cups with numbers. When you're busy making dinner, and your child is whining for something to do, you can say, “Get out the counting box!” Kids will never tire of this activity if you keep a colorful selection of things to count, so that each time your child opens the box, there's something new to explore.

Gina Dal Fuoco has been an elementary school teacher in California for over 12 years, and has also taught English as a foreign language in Italy. Gina is the mother of a toddler and a kindergartener.

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