Preschool Counting Finger Plays: Ideas for Early Years Teachers

Teaching Counting

Counting is one of the earliest school skills a child learns. While there is no one sure-fire way to teach counting, rhymes and games can make learning this skill a little easier. Try some of these preschool counting finger plays with your class. Best for older toddlers or preschool, counting fingerplays and games can enhance your math curriculum.

Counting Fingerplays and Singing Games

Number Song

Use index cards, write numbers one through ten, one number on each card. Repeat numbers if there are more children in your class. Hand out these numbers to the children. Sing: (to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?")

Where is two? Where is two?

There you are! There you are!

We’re so glad to see you,

We’re so glad to see you,

Run away, run away.

Continue with all numbers. With a group of younger children, begin with number one and proceed in numerical order. With older children, sing in random order.

Musical Math

Singing, "If You’re Happy And You Know It", changing the words slightly to give counting directions. Some examples:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap two times,

" ", jump four times,

" ", hop three times.

Be sure to count out loud along with the children.

Counting Zoo

A poem and finger play:

One, one, the zoo is lots of fun (hold up one finger)

Two, two, see a kangaroo (hold up two fingers)

Three, three, see a chimpanzee (hold up three fingers)

Four, four, hear the lions roar (hold up four fingers)

Five, five, watch the seals dive (hold up five fingers)

Counting to Three (this activity is best with very young children)

Hold fingers up one at a time while counting

Count with me, one two three!

Three little dogs, rolling on logs.

Count with me, one two three!

Three little pigs wearing wigs.

…three yellow ducks, driving trucks.

…three brown bears, combing their hair.

Counting Games

Circle Time

Use circle time to count anything. How many children are wearing blue? How many windows are in the room? How many days are in October? How many children are wearing white socks?

Three Times Around

Form a circle, holding hands. Walk around the circle and recite this poem:

Three times around went the sailing ship,

And three times around went she.

Three times around went the sailing ship,

And we sank to the bottom of the sea.

Fall to the floor after saying "sank to the bottom of the sea".

Add numbers and count as high as you want, making sure that you complete a circle for each number you count. This game can also be played with all children standing in a circle and one child acting as "the sailing ship". Not unlike Duck, Duck, Goose, the sailing ship must complete the given number of circles around the ring before the whole class can "sink to the bottom of the sea". Have all children count the number of revolutions the sailing ship makes.

Home Living/Dramatic Play

Have plastic cups, plates, napkins, forks and spoons available in the home living area. As a game, pick a number from a hat and have the child set the table for four, six, two, etc. If you have more than one child participating at a time, you can make this a race. Have children count and choose the table items themselves. This activity is best for older children.