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Why trace numbers to 20 with pencils, when you can use kid-approved vehicles to teach tricky numbers in a hands-on approach?

Find fabulous tips and tricks to teaching kids number formation and download number tracing mats at the end of this post for absolutely free!

*As an Amazon Affiliate, I may make a small commission based on your purchase at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

8 Hands-on ways to trace numbers to 20

Kids are often resistant to tracing numbers on a piece of paper. Here are some great ways to get children to practice writing these numbers in less traditional ways:

  1. Vehicle tracing with numbers to 20 road mats
  2. Shaving cream tracing
  3. Painting numbers with water/paint
  4. Salt tray writing
  5. Chalk
  6. Tracing on partner's back
  7. Air writing
  8. Play-doh number mats (also a great freebie!)
sample number mat 8

Vehicle Number Tracing Tips

Kids love the idea of tracing numbers with planes, trains, or cars. If you're using these mats for a whole class I highly recommend having a plethora of cars.

These are our favorite -and you get 36 in a pack. You can also write numbers on them with wet erase markers to make this activity a little more challenging. Kids can match the car to the correct tracing numbers mat.

And while you have those super duper cars, hop on over to grab your beginning and ending sound parking lots- my students' personal favorite phonics activity where they park these little cars in the spot that matches their sound. Hands-on and multiple uses? Heck yes!

tracing numbers to 20 teen number samples

Numbers to 20 Printable Poster

Lots of kids get stuck at those tricky teen numbers, so having a numbers poster that they can easily access can help them a lot. This poster can be used as a reference, hung on the wall or can easily be pasted in their math notebooks.

Or kids can use this 1-20 printable pdf in a homeschool environment, when tracing numbers to 20 with nontraditional materials (like in the list above). Click for the pdf.

numbers 1-20 printable pdf

Number formation rhymes

When kids first begin to write numbers independently, they may have some trouble remembering proper number formation. I made a video, showing one of the hands-on ways kids can trace numbers to 20, to share the rhymes that have helped my students the most.

These rhymes are extra helpful to say to each child as they trace their numbers to 10.

Watch them on Pinterest to easily save them for later.

Click to watch the rhymes on Pinterest

Download your free tracing mats for numbers 0-20

Make sure you print these in color and either laminate them or place them in sheet protectors so maximize their lives. If you love them, please give us a shout out on social media and tag @forwardwithfun.

I'm so over using worksheets for writing numbers. I've never seen a child have an "aha moment" after doing a worksheet.

As a mom and a kindergarten teacher, I love to cater to active learners who learn best with hands-on learning, aka learning by doing. With this number writing activity kids are practicing writing numbers while also searching, imagining, discovering, and playing.

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

Setting up for Writing Numbers Excavation:

Supplies you'll need:

The play set-up:

  1. On one piece of paper, write the numbers you'd like your child to practice writing randomly and spread out on the page.
  2. Place that piece of paper on the baking tray then cover with the sensory filler.
  3. Have a blank piece of paper with your child's preferred writing utensil nearby, as well as a paint brush.
Child writing numbers on right side. Left side is a baking tray with beans on it, hiding numbers underneath

Writing Numbers Excavation Set Up

Time for writing numbers! Invite your child to play:

To start, ask your child what they know about excavation. When have they seen it, and what kinds of jobs do it. We came up with paleontologists and archaeologists.

Child digging for numbers through beans

Writing Numbers Activity

Excavating means to remove dirt carefully to find what's buried underneath. Both paleontologists and archaeologists use special tools to carefully remove the dirt in order not to harm the buried items: dinosaur bones or human artifacts!

Invite your child to play archaeologist using their paintbrush to gently brush away the sensory beads, beans, kernels, etc. to uncover the mysterious numbers beneath.

Adding the element of imaginative play always brings up the engagement level of an activity. Bonus: being an archaeologist who gently brushes the sensory items back and forth is my way of getting my kids to keep the sensory items on the actual tray and avoid the mess.

A good archaeologist always keeps track of their findings by writing them down. As your child uncovers each number, their job is to write the number on their blank paper.

Just like that writing numbers becomes a game, a mystery, and imaginative play.

You can toss that number writing worksheet now!

Writing doesn't have to be hard!

If writing is not your child's preferred task, it can be a battle to get them to write, even if they love reading and know their letters. This could be a sign that writing is difficult for them due to poor fine motor skills.

If your child's handwriting with a pencil is shaky, weak, or very very light, it means they need to work on their fine motor skills!

Fine motor muscles are the small muscles in the hands and wrists that little ones need to develop before being able to pick up a pencil. Pencils aren't even the best writing utensil to start with!

To develop proper pencil form, give your child small broken crayon pieces. They'll need to push down (just like with pencils) to be able to write and since the pieces are broken, it'll force their small hands to hold the crayon with a better grasp.

For more ways to build your child's fine motor skills which will make writing numbers (and writing altogether) check out my 9 favorite activities for fine motor development!

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