How to teach your child to count to ten

Ready to teach your child to count to ten?

That’s great because in this post we’re going to go over three simple ways you can help your child with counting – without worksheets, apps or spending a ton of time creating Instagram-worthy activities.

And I have good news for you.

You really don’t need anything special to teach your child to count

Half of the stuff you see advertised as a ‘learning toy’ isn’t very useful for learning.

Let me ask you this, have you seen one of these before?

Yep, it’s a Scoop & Learn Ice Cream cart

Before we go any further, let me just say that we have this toy and it’s a fun thing.

I did not want to buy it for the reason that’s coming up – but the fact is my kids love it and play with it a lot – which is why so many bits are missing.

The thing that put me off buying it for a long time is that it’s marketed as a toy to help kids learn to count – and that’s not really what it is.

Sure, it has scoops of ice cream to pick up and stack on the cones – and your kiddo can count them as they scoop.

But mostly they’ll only be putting two or three scoops on there – maybe they’ll get excited and stack up all eight but mostly not.

Does your kid need this toy to learn to count to two or three? Nope.

Will they have fun with it? I think so, yes.

Is it a good thing to buy to teach your child to count. Not really.

Because the truth is this:

Almost any toy can help your child learn to count.

Counting fits naturally into almost any play activity you do with your child.

How many toys cars have they lined up?

How many toy babies are in the bed?

How many shapes are in the shape sorter?

And this natural counting isn’t limited to play – it’s there too when you’re just doing LIFE.

Counting the cars that pass by, counting the items onto the checkout.

Learning to count happens when you’re not looking

Many times, little kids learn to count to ten without trying – because they copy the adults and older kids around them.

They hear us using numbers and join in – and we love it. We praise them and they like that – so they count some more.

And without even trying you’ve taught your child to count to ten.

But what if your child isn’t there yet and you want to help them?

How to encourage your child to count

If your child can’t count to ten and you’d like to teach them, there’s no need to buy expensive plastic learning toys – instead, inject more counting into your everyday activities together.

Here are a few quick ideas.

Let them hear you counting

Spend time counting together. Help them to count their toys .

Count out the plates for dinner or the cups you’re putting into the dishwasher or the selfies of just their forehead they took with your smartphone.

Encourage them to join in with you and get excited when you do.

Count your fingers – and theirs. Toes, days till Christmas, potatoes on the plate – anything that it makes sense to count.

And you’ll get tired of counting everything in sight and want to do other things – but again it can be very simple…

Sing songs with numbers in them

…because another way to practise counting without feeling like you’re drilling your child is to sing songs together.

Many of our popular nursery rhymes feature numbers and counting and kids love singing along with you.

Five little ducks, Five little speckled frogs, 1,2,3,4,5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive and Ten Green Bottles are all simple, engaging songs that your child will enjoy.

You’ll probably smile and remember singing them yourself when you were little.

But if you’re anything like me, it’s been a while and you’ve forgotten most of the words – or can only think of the four I just mentioned.

That’s why I created this post to remind you of dozens of great nursery rhymes for kids with lyrics – and links to video versions for some guilt-free screen time.

And when you’ve had enough of rhymes, read a few stories that feature numbers.

Read stories with a number theme

Like the songs above, picture books that use numbers as a hook make counting fun and interesting for little kids.

‘One Ted Falls Out of Bed,’ by Julia Donaldson and ‘Ten Little Dinosaurs,’ by Mike Brownlow are good for numbers to ten.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is great for teaching a younger child to count to five – and they’ll love sticking a finger in each hole in the page as they count.

Read the stories together and count the toys or dinosaurs or pieces of fruit with your child as you go along.

teach child to count to ten

It’ll take practise to learn to count to ten correctly

When little ones begin counting, they’re just saying words – they don’t really understand what they mean.

Like we said above, they repeat numbers because they hear them and we praise them when they do.

Just imagine I taught you ten Japanese words – then expected you to repeat them in the right order correctly.

Doesn’t sound so easy, does it?

So take your time – if they get the numbers in the wrong order, repeat them back correctly – but don’t get wrapped up in it.

Especially if they’re still very little, it’ll take a while to get it right.

And if you keep going with these simple, everyday activities, you’ll soon find your child can count to ten perfectly.

But don’t stop there…

What’s next once they can count to ten?

Easy. Keep going to 20!

There aren’t so many books and songs that go all the way to 20 but you can practise together and count whenever it makes sense.

How many steps to get home?

How many spoonfuls of flour in the recipe?

How many seconds will it take you to drink up your juice?

And practise counting backwards – like a rocket taking off. 10, 9, 8, 7…….

But then what? What do I do once they can count to 20?

Then you can work on recognising and ordering numbers – key skills that’ll build naturally into doing calculations.

Let’s look at recognising numbers next.