Numbers, easier with meaning

Children begin to learn about numbers from everyday situations they can relate to. Adults play a key role in modelling language and supporting children to explore mathematical ideas during play and real-life situations.

Ways to encourage number play
  • Have a selection of natural and man-made items on hand that children can count, match, sort, and order.
  • Give them props for number play. Old computer keyboards, calculators, number tiles, dice and games are ideal.
  • Create pretend play spaces where children can play using numbers. You could create a shop, bank, café or post office.
  • Ask questions about numbers.
Movement and direction
  • Driving or walking? Talk about where you are or where you are going next. Say things like ‘We are going under the overpass’, ‘There is a truck behind us,’  or ‘Let’s walk along the creek’.
  • Moving around? Involve them in how to get from one place to another. You could ask ‘I need to go back to the shed, which way will I walk?’
  • Reading books and viewing TV? Ask questions about pictures/the story. Questions like ‘How will he get from his house to the forest?’, ‘Which way should she go?’,How did they get to …?’. In everyday situations, encourage your child to use specific words to describe position, direction and movement. Encourage them to make statements with detail such as ‘I looked on top of the shelf and found the pens’, ‘I will turn the pancake over’.
Finding numbers in play

You or your child can:

  • Describe movements as they climb/move or complete obstacle courses, such as ‘I am going up the slide’, ‘Go down the ladder’, ‘Walk backwards to the fence’, ‘Crawl under the chairs’.
  • Alternatively, you could draw a map and mark a path to … some treasure? Give them instructions ‘Go around the table, through the door and over to the tree.’
  • Hide a toy and give specific directions to find it, that is, ‘Take two steps forward. One step to the side/right. Look up. Look under the book! Well done!’
  • Follow directions to move to music. The movements might include stretch up high, walk sideways, turn around and jump back.

Image Young boy playing with blocks, learning numeracy concepts through play

Published — 14 October 2016 Last updated — 15 October 2018

Want personalised tips and activities?

Complete these short questions to get personalised tips and activities to see how simple and easy it can be.

Get started
01 / 05

What is your relationship with the child?


What best describes your location?


If you had a spare moment, what would you most likely do with the child?


And finally…

Do you speak another language at home apart from English?
Are you of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander descent?
Does the child need additional support with their development or learning?
Now we know a little more about the content that might interest you we’ve compiled it into a handy page for you.