Learning to count – on the beach!

teach your child counting with shells
Spread the love


Rob Charteris BSc Hons, RMN, CBT practitioner

Seaside learning for toddlers

Going to the seaside is great and kids love to see the rock pools, sea gulls and splash in the waves. But the trouble with kids is they always want to learn.

Here’s a way to keep them happy, have some fun and teach them about numbers.

Real things versus numbers

According to psychologists, the way we learn is from “concrete to abstract”. This is a fancy way for saying we need to see real things in order to start learning about imaginary things. Numbers are “abstract” or imaginary things. They didn’t exist before humans created them. In fact the Arab world was the first place modern numbers were made popular, and spread all around the globe. Arab mathematicians like Al-Khwarizmi were the pioneers of the numbers we use today. Before these thinkers, numbers were represented by things like Roman Numerals or tallies.

The point is that to teach children to count, it’s easier to have things to count. On the beach there are plenty of things, but I would like to suggest shells.

Counting games

  1. Find some shells, about 10 should do. Make sure they are pretty or interesting. Children will get engaged better if they helped find them, so praise them for finding the most beautiful or strange shells.
  2. Give your child 2 of the shells and have 3 for yourself. Ask them “who has more?” and then swap the numbers so they have the most. Count the shells out loud.
  3. Now count all the shells you have and get them involved. Just by saying the words for the numbers and pointing to them they will quickly learn the number system.
  4. Make 3 piles of shells and give 2 to your child have 3 for yourself. Keep the rest in the other pile. Now ask your child to make the piles fair and see if they can work out that adding just 1 shell to their pile makes everything fair and equal. If you pretend you are sad that you have less shells your child will try to help you and is more likely to work it out. Children don’t like their mommies to be sad. Make sure you keep counting them using numbers so that your child can “link” the words for numbers with the amounts in the piles.

Try variations of the above and keep repeating and counting together.

You don’t have to use shells and you don’t need to be on holiday, but you will find, in a very short time, your child will be able to count!



Welcome to Baby Arabia