This was a lesson in number recognition for my 4 year old and a counting tool for my 3 year old. We “play school” in our craft studio and always use our crafting tools for everything…in part because they are everywhere. (I’m always working on my organization)
It takes no time to prepare and I keep this on our school shelf with the basket of jacks for our “free choice” time. Once they understand what the tool is for they can go back to it whenever they want. We like pink in our house if you can’t guess, so I simply used a ruler to grid out 12 columns. We are working on 1-12, some use 0-10. My Moon Princess was getting stuck with the “eleventeen” and skipping 12 for a little while until she was able to really see them written in this concrete way. Numbers are very abstract and they really do need to see them in this way to connect the number and the quantity.
MP places which ever objects she chooses to equal the number at the top of the column. Sometimes you have to smooch them in when you use bigger objects. I allow her to do this completely on her own and it takes some re-counting….which simple means reenforcing on her part. At first you can have them go in order and they can see how each column has one more object than the last. Once they are secure in this you can have them work backwards, learn even / odd numbers, ask for only specific numbers, or count by 3’s or 4’s. This becomes a game and with simply a sheet of paper and some odds and ends you have a very complete lesson and a lot of fun.
My 3 year old focuses more on the counting of the objects for each column once her sister sets it up for her. One thing I am careful about is keeping tools like this only on the lesson shelf. It’s important to learn respect for these things and I believe that leads to them placing a higher value on education.