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Counting Games for Babies & Toddlers

baby feetWiggle your toes! Twirl your fingers! Turning favorite nursery rhymes into counting games for kids is an engaging way for your child to learn to count and begin understanding one-to-one correspondence.


  1. Recite to your child the classic nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy Went to Market.” As you say each line, softly squeeze one of your child’s fingers or toes and say a number in sequence from 1 to 5:
    • This little piggy went to market.(Softly squeeze a thumb or big toe and say “That’s one!”)
    • This little piggy stayed home. (Softly squeeze a second finger or toe and say “That’s two!”)
    • This little piggy had roast beef (or tofu or ice cream). (Softly squeeze a third finger or toe and say “That’s three!”)
    • This little piggy had none. (Softly squeeze a fourth finger or toe and say “That’s four!”)
    • This little piggy cried “Wee-wee-wee!” all the way home. (Softly squeeze a pinkie finger or toe and say “That’s five!”)
  2. Next, invite your child to recite the nursery rhyme along with you as you repeat the actions. Once the rhyme becomes familiar, invite your child to say the number when you come to it. For example, you say, “This little piggy went to market,” and the response is, “That’s one!”
  3. Get silly and have fun! Recite the poem, but stop midway through and pretend you’ve forgotten which number comes next. You can also mix up your “piggies” so that your child can correct you.
  4. Use this same process with other finger play rhymes. For example:
    • Five little monkeys jumping on the bed. (Begin with five fingers splayed and your palm away from you, facing your child. Bounce your hand to the rhythm of the verse.)
    • One fell off and bumped his head. (Hold up one finger and rub your head with your other hand.)
    • Mommy called the doctor and the doctor said, “NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!” (Hold index finger out, shaking in a chastising manner.)
    • Repeat with “Four little monkeys… ,” etc.
  5. You and your child can add to the fun by substituting other kinds of animals (froggies, birdies, etc.) for the monkeys.
  6. More rhymes can be found online at Preschool Rainbow

Parent Tips:

  • Adaptation for infants: Play with your child as described in step 1. Add additional steps as soon as your child can participate.
  • The first two rhymes and play help your child with counting and understanding one-to-one correspondence between the numbers and fingers.
  • The last rhyme helps your child understand subtraction through counting backward and removing one finger each time.

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