When Should My Child Be Able to Count?

As a parent, you likely ponder your child’s development often. You may wonder when they should take their first steps, say their first words, or start counting. Counting sets the foundation for later math learning, so tracking milestones matters. Understanding typical progression in counting skills will help you support your child. 

Counting is an essential early math ability, and research is available on when you can expect children to reach different counting milestones. At The Learning Academy, we have designed our curriculum and activities to align with key benchmarks to foster your child’s growth.

Recognizing Numbers

Before being able to count, children need to develop number recognition. This involves being able to identify written numerals visually. According to Verywell Family, toddlers as young as 15 months may start recognizing numerals if frequently exposed. However, more reliable identification emerges around age 2 when toddlers can reliably point to and say numbers one to 10.

You can help develop this skill by pointing out numbers in your everyday environment. For example, highlight ages, countdowns, street addresses, prices, etc. Also, read counting books and play number-based games with your toddler. As an example, you can call out a number and they find the matching toy.

Rote Counting

The next phase in your child’s counting journey involves rote counting, or reciting numbers in sequence. They may initially only go to 3 or 5, but will work up to 10 and then 20 with time and practice. Many children can rote count to 10 by age 2. By ages 3 to 4 years, preschoolers often count to 20 or beyond.

You can practice rote counting through songs, rhymes and chants that incorporate sequencing numbers. Allow your child to join in counting rhymes and fill in the next number. You can also have them count out toys. These simple back-and-forth games make learning engaging.

True Counting

While rote counting is an essential skill, true counting requires added comprehension. Around ages 3 to 4, children understand each number represents a quantity. They can accurately count real objects, pointing at items while verbal counting.

You can encourage true counting with toys, snacks and household items. Have them count blocks, grapes, stairs, etc., starting small (one to five) and gradually increasing mastery. Concrete examples aid grasping counting concepts. Make it a game – count objects, recount to double check, and praise their effort.

Numeral Literacy

As your child masters counting physical objects, they will begin to connect quantities to abstract written numerals. Recognizing digits and representing counts with marks demonstrate deeper math comprehension. According to Scholastic, some children as young as 3 may write numbers if properly taught. More consistent writing emerges around ages 4 to 5.

Provide engaging tracing, copying, and writing numbers activities – with shaving cream, sand or finger paint. Prominently display numbers at home for identification practice. Slowly work up from one digit to two digit numbers in the 20s or 30s.

Counting Milestones by Age

  • 15 months – May recognize some written numbers
  • 24 months – Rote counts and recognizes numbers one to 10
  • 36 months – Accurately counts objects, rote counts one to 20
  • 4 years – Counts objects to 20, writes some/all digits
  • 5 years – Counts 100+ objects, writes numbers zero to 20

As you can see, counting skills rapidly progress early on. The Learning Academy builds numbers into activities across all ages – with developmentally appropriate games, stories and more. Schedule a tour to learn more!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are activities to practice counting?

Climbing stairs, blocks, book page numbers, food items, dice games, rhymes, counting body parts, jumps, toys, colors, letters, etc. Almost anything can become a fun counting activity!

What if my child struggles with counting?

Revisit mastered concepts and slowly build skills. Reinforce number recognition and rote counting before counting objects. Add encouragement, visual aids, tactile objects to aid learning concepts. If concerned after practicing, discuss at next pediatrician appointment.

Is memorization required for counting?

Initially for number names/order, but true counting requires connecting numerals to concrete quantities instead of reciting numbers alone. Make counting as hands-on as possible.

How can I make math fun for young kids?

Inject math into everyday routines – count stairs aloud, identify shapes and patterns, classify toy sizes/colors, compare snack quantities. Use rhymes, songs, stories, movement, games to reinforce numbers in a playful way.

What is the best way to teach numbers?

Use a multi-sensory approach – say numbers aloud, display numerals, trace digits, count objects. Relate numbers to real concepts rather than rote memorization alone. Blend strategies into your child’s natural play and curiosity.

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