Children learn the forward sequence of number words initially in the same way as they learn the alphabet, as a continuous string. As children begin to learn how to count, they may be able to say some number words and use those words when in the process of counting.

However, in the emergent counting stage, children can’t consistently reproduce the correct number sequence, both forward and backwards, between 0 and 10. They also can’t consistently match one number word to one item in the collection.


Counting a Handful of Buttons

This simple counting activity helps emergent counters work towards:

Correctly counting collections of up to ten objects; and
Consistently matching one number word to one item in the collection.



How to play:


This fun learning activity is as simple as they come; the title says it all.

Pick up a handful of buttons;
Guess how many buttons have been picked up;
Placing the buttons in a row, count the buttons aloud.

Outcomes to work towards:

Despite the simple nature of this activity, there are specific skills to be mastered.

Count orally to ten in the correct order;
Name the number word before or after a given number;
Match each number word to one, and only one, object when counting.

Support Learning:

When I first started this activity a with N and M about a year ago, (my how time flies), they didn’t consistently meet any of the objectives above. I didn’t persist with the activity every day, or every week, or every month. When an every day counting opportunity arose, (e.g. eating pieces of fruit or playing with a bunch of action figures, etc), I would occasionally count the items with them.

Here are some ways to help children who are not readily grasping the concepts required for this activity.

Model the activity before expecting children to complete the activity independently;

Allow children to work at their own pace, giving extra time when necessary;

Repeat the concept by using a variety of other resources;

Limit the range of numerals being presented; work in the 0-5 range before the 0-10.

Extend the Activity:

Before you know it, six months or a year has flown by. If the child can easily complete this counting activity, here are some ways to further challenge them and further develop their efficiency with numbers.

Forming two lines of buttons next to each other, compare the two rows. Discuss which row has the greater number of buttons. Determine how many more buttons are in one line than are in the other line;

Using the buttons, form a numeral (e.g. in the picture above, M made the number zero). To support the development of numeral recognition, ensure that numerals are not always presented in sequence;

Using the buttons, make some button paper clips and number cards to learn the corresponding numeral for a set of objects.


 N & M: 4 years, 1 month
July 2012

Lessons Learnt Journal
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About the author

Pauline Pauline & Lessons Learnt Journal is all about life with kids. Pauline is an Aussie mum and teacher who shares her love for play, math games, writing and reading activities. She believes that #playmatters, values curiosity & wonder, wisdom, obedience and respect. She also needs naps. When not blogging, she may be found virtually hoarding on Pinterest, trying to decide which Instagram filter to apply, or compulsively refreshing her Facebook feed.

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