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I'm sure that every preschool and kindergarten classroom has and uses counting bears (or other counters) in some way! Many homes have them as well, and they can be a fun and simple way to spend some learning time. We use these Baby Bear Counters from Learning Resources, but if bears are not your thing you can also find pets, people, jungle animals, vehicles, dinosaurs, or even fruit! My favorite thing about them is how versatile they are. I easily sat and taught my 2.5 year old and my 4.5 year old at the same time, giving them each different tasks and moving back and forth between them.
While we do home preschool, things are pretty relaxed around here, so I don't usually like to take a lot of time to prepare our activities or games. That's why these counting bears are such a wonderful resource to have. We use them all the time, but they were in heavy rotation during our Bear Theme preschool week.
There are lots of cute printables available that you can use to play with your counters. They're stylish and colorful, and if you have the time and desire to use them then that's fantastic. But by golly, sometimes you just need to grab a bucket of bears and entertain your kids for a while without having to think about it ahead of time. Of course you can count them, but there are lots of other ways to use them. Keep these simple ideas in your back pocket for the next time you need a super quick lesson.
1. Count Them
Work on basic one-to-one correspondence. Set out a row of bears and let your little one practice counting.
2. Skip Count With Them
Set them out in rows of 2, 5, or 10 and practice skip counting. Lena was working on counting by 10s in this picture.
3. Sort Them By Color
Set out one bear of each color and have your little one put the rest in the correct piles.
4. Work on Greater Than/ Less Than
Set out a small pile and a large pile. Ask which is greater, more, less, fewer, equal. Practice using those words.
5. Use Them to Measure
Get out some books or toys (or a ukulele) and practice non-standard measurement. How many bears long is the object? This ukulele was about 12 bears long.
6. Use Them for Basic Math FactsSet out simple math problems. 2 bears + 2 bears = 4 bears.
7. Make Patterns with Them
Younger children can make basic A/B patterns while older children can work on more complicated patterns.
8. Make Shapes or Words With Them
Arrange them into shapes or letters. Use them to spell simple words.
9. Wash Them
Hand your kiddos a bowl of water, some bears, a squirt of soap, and a rag. Bath time!
10. Use Them for Imaginative PlayI know my girls love to plunk them around, make them talk, put them to bed, wrap them up, and so on. Encourage your children to do the same!
What have I missed? How do YOUR children play with counters? Tell me in the comments below!
What Would You Like To Read Next?
Rainbow Counting Bear Discovery Bottle from Preschool Inspirations
Measuring With Bear Counters from Mom Inspired Life
Free Printable Rainbow Bear Counting Cards from Life Over C's
Counting With Bears from Where Imagination Grows