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Teachers of young children talk about one to one correspondence, but what is it? One to One correspondence is counting one object for every number said.
Without one to one correspondence, one will not be able to count objects accurately. When a child is able to count one object per each number said, they also understand that a number represents a specific quantity.
At what age do kids develop one to one correspondence? This can be between the ages of 3-5. In kindergarten, kids are expected to count up to 20 objects with one to one correspondence. In preschool up to 10.
*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

Does your child do this?

When given a quantity of objects and asked to count, many kids count faster than they register each object resulting in counting to a number that is MORE than the actual number of objects!
This happens because kids learn counting as a rote skill. They memorize the number order much earlier than they learn to count objects, so saying the numbers in that order is automatic. For many, they are just saying numbers in order without any knowledge of numbers representing quantities.
So, we have to SLOW DOWN!
The best way to build one to one correspondence is to give children a way to slow down their counting. I teach my students a counting rule called, "Touch 1, count 1." For every object they are counting, they must either touch it, or move it to another spot completely.
This snack activity, aka snacktivity, is a highly engaging way to build one to one correspondence with items you already have around the house. You can also use it as an assessment to see if your child has one to one correspondence up to a certain number.

A muffin pan filled with snacks on the left and on the right, the same pan covered in aluminum foil with numbers written on each circular space

Get ready for Punch Math Snacktivity - One to One Correspondence Game

With this simple hands-on learning game, your kid will love learning number recognition, one to one correspondence, numeracy, and even arithmetic. Just grab these few supplies and get ready to play.

What you'll need:

Prep your Punch Math Snacktivity:

  1. Put a few snacks in each circle. Make sure they're small and dry.
  2. Then wrap aluminum foil over the top and sides of the muffin pan.
  3. Over each circle, draw a circle then write a number that your child can identify or is working on identifying.

For preschoolers, I recommend numbers between 1-10. For kindergarteners, numbers ranging from 1-15. Don't go into the teens unless your child has mastered 1-10.

Three Ways to Play to build One to One Correspondence and Other Math Skills:

Simplest Way to Play: Builds One to One Correspondence and Number Recognition

For this version, your child is solely focused on number recognition and one to one correspondence.
Present your kiddo with the straw and talk about the numbers they see on the aluminum. Their mission is to uncover their snack by identifying the correct number and punching through the aluminum foil that many times.
Invite your child to play by asking them to punch number 3 three times, number 5 five times, etc.
By punching the straw through the aluminum foil they're forced to slow down their counting and follow the "touch one, count one," rule of one to one correspondence.
They'll be thrilled to reveal the snacks underneath with each punch through. For an additional way to practice, you can have them count the snacks as well!

Medium Difficulty Way to Play: Builds One to One Correspondence and Number Sense

Once your preschooler or kindergartner has a good grip on number identification try this way of playing that builds number sense using more than and less than.
Call out actions such as, "Punch a number that is more than 5. Punch a number that is less than 2."
Another way to play this way is to show them on your hands a number of fingers and ask them to find a number that is more than or less than that many! That way they're "subitizing" the number of fingers, translating that into the number they identified, and then building their knowledge of more and less.

Advanced Way to Play: Builds One to One Correspondence and Arithmetic Skills

You guessed it, have your child determine which number is the sum or the difference to your simple arithmetic problem, and punch the number the correct number of times to reveal the snack beneath.
Use call outs like, "Punch the number that is 5 +1!" and "Punch the number that is 4-2!"
To scaffold and make this a little less tricky, use your fingers to show addition and subtraction. Hold up 8 fingers, "Punch the number that is this many take away 3!"

Assess your child's skills with this game!

In order to best guide our children in their learning, we must assess their skills.
This helps us to avoid wasting time teaching them the same things when they've already mastered them, but also it helps us target specific skills that need more attention.
As you play this one to one correspondence game with your child, review what they do accurately and what they don't. Take note.
When we watch our children during a learning activity and take note of what they can and can't do, it's called an observational assessment.
Does your child begin to count to fast once they get to the teen numbers? This will help you target one to one correspondence in the teens for a future activity.
Does your child instantly add small numbers but falter when it comes to subtraction? Those are the skills that require more attention as you play together.
Assessments are essential to help children reach new heights in every topic. When a teacher or parent is made aware of what the child doesn't yet know, even without creating special activities or games to target that skill, the child is more likely to become proficient.
Why? Well, for example, if I knew my daughter always got stuck on the number 7. I would organically bring it up as we cook dinner, I might count out 7 carrots with her. On a walk, I may be more likely to point out the number 7 on a license plate.
Assessment is KEY to your child's success!

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Measuring is a practical skill that kids use all the time. They help measure volume when pouring ingredients to bake a cake. They measure quantity when checking who got more of that delicious snack Mom brought out. They measure when comparing height to see who made the tallest tower. Kids are measuring all the time, but to delve a bit deeper into understanding measuring I created this activity that gets them moving, learning, and thinking in new ways. Measuring is in and of itself, a hands-on concept.

Why don't we use a standard ruler to measure with kids?

When introducing measurement with child, they usually have no understanding of centimetres and inches. The concept of standardized units is very abstract. That's why in preschool and kindergarten we introduce units of measurement that kids can really wrap their minds around. Usually those are regular household objects and toys. The must-do for measuring is that kids must use one specific object, so it's length stays consistent all the way through. Once kids understand that they must measure with a unit that is consistently the same size, you can begin to introduce inches and other standardized measurement tools.

How to introduce measuring during "Measuring Me" Activity:

To play "Measuring Me," you'll need blue tape and access to items around the home that are (mostly) uniform in length. Some ideas are shoes, blocks, markers, crayons, envelopes, etc. If you need some blue tape, click the pic to grab some. We use this for projects and activities on the daily and may receive a commission if you purchase through this link.

  1. Your first step will be to have your child lie down on the floor and make a tape line that matches their height. Have them get up and examine the line. Was it longer or shorter than they expected?
  2. Explain that this line represents their height and you'll be investigating how tall they are in different materials around the house. We tried shoes first, and I made sure to explain that we will only use adult shoes to make sure all the shoes are the same length, or we wouldn't get an accurate measurement.
  3. I demonstrated how to start at one end of the tape and lined the items up toe to heel/end to end. Once we reached the end, we counted how tall Big Sis was in shoes!
  4. Next we picked another object: markers. Before starting measuring with markers, I asked Big Sis to make a prediction. How many markers tall does she think she is? Will it be more or less than the shoes?
  5. Again I reinforced as she lined up the items that she had to start at one end of the tape and line each item end to end to get an accurate measurement.
  6. We went through a few different materials, making predictions along the way and comparing how many units tall Big Sis was with Lil Sis.
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Big Concepts for Measuring Me:

One big take away for this activity is that when measuring you must start lining items up at one end of the tape and continue till the end. The second big take away is to get an accurate measurement you must use items that are one size.
This is a tricky concept at first but if you were to explain to another person that you were 14 markers and buttons long, they would have no idea what you mean? If you said you were 17 markers long though, they might have a clearer picture. As kids grasp measuring more and more, we introduce inches and feet or centimetres and meters.
Preschoolers and kindergartners are building their understanding of math concepts through this hands-on activity. You'll be touching on so many concepts. Besides measuring with nonstandard units, you'll also be making predictions, counting, comparing more and less, and of course, keeping your little ones engaged in hands-on learning.

Kids who count the wrong number of objects without noticing their mistake have yet to develop the important skill of one to one correspondence.

The definition of one to one correspondence is the knowledge that only one item is to be counted for each number that you say. To put it another way, each item in a group of items is only to be counted once.

Because children learn the counting sequence orally before they learn one to one correspondence, kids often over count objects. They're saying the numbers faster than they're registering the actual quantity in the set.

To solve this problem, we use the simple one to one correspondence definition as a reminder to kids: Touch one, count one.

A very engaging way to practice one to one correspondence is through this phone number activity for preschoolers and kindergartners.

*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post at no additional cost to you.

Here is what you'll need to play and start developing one to one correspondence:

Dot stickers are a wonderful tool for developing one to one correspondence because peeling the sticker will

slow down your child's counting. As they peel each sticker, they should only count one number more in the sequence.

Is your child having trouble peeling the stickers? Remove the white backing from the page and it'll be MUCH easier!

How to Teach One to One Correspondence with Phone Number Activities:

Dot Sticker Phone Number Activities

Phone number with dot stickers on each number

One to one correspondence with dot stickers

  1. Write your phone number in large numbers across the paper. They can be block numbers or just written regularly.
  2. Sing your phone number together. Just like that car commercial or that catchy tune you heard on the radio, songs are great memorization tools!
  3. Place the correct number of dot stickers on each number in the phone number. The number 3 should have 3 stickers, 8 should have 8, etc.
  4. As your child peels the dot stickers, remind them the "Touch one, count one" rule.
  5. Each time your child finishes a number, have them go back and check their work. Here is another opportunity to build one to one correspondence, as your child can "touch one, count one" by touching each dot sticker they've placed on the number and counting.

Build on the Dot Sticker Phone Number Activity with the following one to one correspondence activities:

-instead of dot stickers, have your child "dot" your phone

number with Dot Paints

-use stickers of their choosing to dot the numbers in your

phone number. Mermaids? Dinosaurs?

-use these sticky googly eyes to stick on each number to

make the numbers monsters!

-place the correct number of Legos in/on each number

-use colored toothpicks as counters for each digit

-repeat your favorite ways of counting with a new phone


Teach your phone number, phone numbers with eyes and stickers on them

One to One Correspondence for Preschool

Is your child still struggling with one to one correspondence?

For beginner counters, try exercises where they have to actually move the objects they're counting. That will slow down their oral counting to match the number of objects.

By moving the objects, kids better keep track of what they've already counted.

As they get more confident in counting, they might only touch the object, then point at it, and then ideally for smaller numbers, they'll be able to visually know how many they have quickly in a skill called subitizing.

Want more one to one correspondence practice? If your child likes snack time, they'll love this snacktivity aka snack activity.

Does your young child count objects too fast and accidentally skip over items or count the same one twice?

This means that they do not yet have one to one correspondence.

The one to one correspondence definition is counting one number for every object counted. Simple put, it's counting accurately.

One to one correspondence develops for numbers under 5 in the preschool years and by the end of kindergarten, kids are expected to accurately count up to 20 objects.

We made our own board game to practice one to one correspondence and taking turns, which for preschoolers is also a BIG skill.

*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

Make your own board game in 1 min!

What you'll need:

Magna-tiles -these are the best kids toy I've ever laid eyes on. My kids can play and build with them for hours, which I cannot say about any other toy. If you don't have Magna-tiles, you can always draw a board to play on. But really, I wish I hadn't waited to so long to get them because they're magical.

Dry Erase Foam Dice- These dry erase dice allow me to put what I want to on each side. For my 2 year old who only knows numbers up till 3, I wanted to reinforce those numbers only. This would also make it easier for her to count with one to one correspondence. On each side, I wrote 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, and 3. You can personalize it however you want! We even use them to add an element of surprise to chores and so many other ways.

Two toys of the kids' choosing, could be anything!

Create the board together

Making the board game together will be a great opportunity for practicing one to one correspondence.

We chose to have two separate tracks, but really you can make a board that all players use!

When making two seperate tracks, it was important that both players had the same number of Magna-tiles, or the game wouldn't be fair. This led us to deciding a certain number and counting that many squares together using one to one correspondence.

For counting larger numbers, it is important that children move each piece as they count one more in order to keep track.

Let's take turns and practice counting with one to one correspondence!

kristoff and olaf from frozen figurines on the track for the board game. (title) taking turns activities for preschoolers

How teach turn taking!

For many children, taking turns comes with struggle. Board games are a great way to practice taking turns, because turns are quick and there is opportunity for each player to get many turns.

We also use this "Taking Turns Song" to help remind the littlest what the expectations are in a gentle way.

Taking Turns Song:

Sung to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down"

There is something new I learned, new I learned, new I learned

I know how to wait my turn when I'm playing

I wait and watch until its time, till it's time, till it's time,

First it's yours and then it's mine, taking turns.

Usually by the end of the song, it's close to their turn!

How to play and teach 1:1 correspondence:

magnet tiles attached to form board game, foam die showing number to move each character forward. Title "counting for preschoolers quick and easy magnetic tile board game."

Practice One to One Correspondence through play

Each player puts their character of choice on the first square of the game board. In our house we alternate who goes first, but I've also heard of other families who have a general rule that the youngest player gets the first turn.

The first player rolls the foam die and reads the number. (If your child is struggling to remember a certain number, this is a great opportunity to practice it, since they'll have lots of exposure to it over the course of each game).

That player must move their character forward that many steps.

Remind your child to count slowly as they move their character forward one square for every number counted.

Lil Sis (2.5 years) doesn't yet have one to one correspondence so I tried these methods to help her better understand:

From beginning to end, she did begin counting with greater accuracy, and as we played again and again, she understood much more.

How This Method Teaches One to One Correspondence:

Lots of counting inaccuracy comes with kids rote counting, meaning they're just saying the sequence of numbers they've memorized. In a game, the numbers translate to movements on the board.

By actually having to move each piece only that amount, kids are more focused on counting slowly which leads to greater accuracy.

Taking turns also lets them try the new skill but also have a model for how it is done accurately.

When kids are counting groups of objects by sight or just by pointing to each item (this happens often in number books when there are no actual manipulatives to move) they more easily lose track of the number of objects.

Giving children manipulatives and asking them to physically pick up and move each item will develop the one to one correspondence concept that every number said stands for one more item.

To make it more difficult, you can increase the numbers on the dice. You can even include addition or subtraction equations on the dice with your dry erase marker, to level this up for older children.

Leave a comment below to let me know how you practice one to one correspondence with your child!

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