Figure it Out

Figure it Out

Look around you. We are surrounded by numbers. With a little bit of imagination, you can create a whole host of activities to help your child's numeracy development. So go figure it out with some fun number play. Below are some great examples to get you going.

et’s Get Measuring!

Create your own measuring tape to measure some of your toys or items in your house! I wonder which will be the tallest…

Learning Intention:

Compare objects of different length.

Use and show understanding of comparison language, EG: longer/shorter, taller/smaller.


1. Attach some pages or cardboard together in a line using glue or Sellotape (if you have an old roll of wallpaper, this will work too!)

2. Assist your child in painting their hands and stamp onto your paper like shown in the picture. Or if you don’t have paint, you could also use markers, pencils or crayons to draw around their hands instead. (If needed or the child wants you to can also number the handprints to assist them when counting!)

3. Ask your child to pick 2 toys or any other household items at the most to measure and compare (they can change the items once they’ve both been measured, however only allow them 2 items at the start to keep it simple!).

4. Make sure your child has their toy level with the bottom of the page and count how many handprints tall the item is. During this stage, your child can take a photo or write their findings on a page to record how many handprints tall the items are.

Extension: If your child has really enjoyed this activity and would like to continue measuring, you could weigh and compare items too! Be sure to use the comparison language also such as heavy/light. If you don’t have scales at home, you can DIY your own balancing scales using a hanger, string and plastic cups (see image to left).


1 to 8 – Aimee McGleenon

Learning Intention: 

To develop recognition of the numerals 1-8 

To develop understanding of set representations from 1-8 


1. Write the numbers from 1-8 on the whiteboard.  

2. Next, grab some paper and a bowl.  

3. On your paper, ask an adult to draw sets of dots or dice like patterns for numbers 1-8 and fold each piece up and place into the bowl.  

4. One at a time, pick out a piece of paper and count how many dots there are. 

5. Once counted, find the matching number on the whiteboard and erase it.  

6. Keep going until the bowl is empty and you have found all the numbers.  


Be a Shape Detective!  – Eirinn McCrudden

Create magnifying glasses in different shapes to investigate and explore around your home to find shapes that match! 

Learning Intention: 

Explore and talk about shapes within their home environment, describing and naming them or discussing shape properties, IE: roll/ doesn’t roll, has 4 straight edges 


1. Using paper, cardboard box or anything you have handy, draw out different shapes with a handle attached to make your own shaped magnifying glasses! You could draw a circle, triangle, square, rectangle, or any other shapes you child might know and like! Talk to your child about which shape is which, but let them take the lead (if they have lots they want to tell you about a shape, let them!) 

2. Once made, let your child take one magnifying glass at a time to go exploring around your house to find items that match the shape of the magnifying glass, EG: using the rectangle magnifying glass to match with a TV.  

3. Children could either bring items or tell you about items they found that matched. Question them to further their thinking by asking them questions like, “How do you know it’s a match? Is something the same/different?”. (You could pretend or get things wrong to let the children act as the teacher- they love this!) 

Extension: You could tell your child a shape and ask them to go and find something that matches from a specific part of your house, IE: their bedroom. You can switch up which shapes to hunt for. Also, you could read a book about shape (if you have one) or watch a YouTube video such as ‘Numberjacks– very shapely’ at 


Length and Height – Aimee McGleenon

Learning intentions: 

To estimate the length or height of items 

To measure items using non-standard units of measurement 


1. Chat with an adult and decide on an item to use as your measurement unit. This could be spoons, shoes or anything you have at hand. 

2. Collect 8 of these items and line them up. 

3. Next, collect items to measure from around your house or from outside together. 

4. Estimate or guess how long or tall you think it will be, then measure using the items, pointing and counting to each item as you count. 

5.  Repeat the task with different sized items. You could work from big to small, small or big, or a mixture of items. One item you could measure is yourself or someone each at home! 


Park It – Ellie Boyd

Park the blue car in number 8, park the blue car in the red space or drive the green car to mum – toy cars, or animals or figures, can become a playful learning experience.

Learning intention

Develop recognition of numbers, colours or tricky words.


1. Make a car park using a large piece of paper, or on the ground outside using chalk, putting numbers, colours or words in the parking spaces.

2. Give you child a colour, number or word and ask them to park the car in the right parking space. When using the words, the children have to say the word in the space before parking in it.

3. The numbers could also be used as answers to sums for older children.


Sort the Bugs Amy Wood

A great activity to help with numeracy, sorting and counting coloured bugs into the correct pots.

Learning intentions

Extending children’s mathematical development through the sorting of coloured bugs and developing fine motor skills using tweezers.


1. Resources: soil, magnifying glass, tweezers, coloured bugs, pots with colour.

2. Put soil into a tray and hide some coloured bugs (or other coloured items) in the soil.

3. Encourage children to use the tweezers (or their hands) to sort the bugs into the correct coloured pots.


Number Ground Art – Mechelle Caughey

It’s not only a pencil and paper that can be used to write numbers. This activity will stretch your child’s imagination to create temporary numbers using materials such as stones, sticks, leaves and feathers.

Learning Intentions

Children will be provided with opportunities to develop their natural curiosity about numbers and counting using natural loose parts.


1. Draw numbers on a piece of cardboard or with chalk on the ground.

2. Give children a piece of paper with a number or dots on it and send them off on a hunt around the garden to collect natural loose objects to make the numbers or put the right number of items on the dots.

3. This will provide opportunities for mathematical discussion around the shape of numbers.

4. Get them to take a picture of their work and show it off to other family members and explain how they recognise and count numbers.


4. Feeding the Owls – Nicola Andrews

After making their own owls, children can feed the owls with pompoms (or different sized counters) using their fingers or tweezers (or even chop sticks) depending on ability.

Learning Intentions

To develop fine motor skills and encourage mathematical thinking including counting, size, colour and patterns (e.g. pompoms).


1. The owls can be made using coffee tins or something similar (ensuring they are safe to use).

2. The tins can be decorated using socks or scrap materials.  Children can help design and make the owls (or any creature they like).

3. Cut holes of different sizes into the lid of the tins (cover the lids with insulating tape to ensure there were no rough edges around the holes).

4. Encourage the children to use their fingers or the tweezers to feed the owls one pompom (or counter) at a time, noting the different sized holes.


5. Measure It – Oonagh McLaughlin

Learning intentions

To understand and use the language of comparison


1. Find an object close to hand – for example, a pen, pencil or book.

2. Challenge your child to find a bigger object or a smaller one, a longer or shorter one, a thinner or thicker object or  a heavier or lighter object.

3. Discuss and compare the objects that the child finds. How do they know that it is bigger, smaller? Do they need two hands or one hand to hold it? Is it bigger than their hand or can they fit it inside? Is it long or shorter than their little finger – what about their other fingers?

4. Words to use: big/bigger, small/smaller, long/longer, short/shorter, thin/thinner/, thick/thicker

5. How can we check? Using rulers, measuring tapes, scales?


6. Match it! – Oonagh McLaughlin

Learning intentions

To match shapes, number or letters.


1. Choose a shape/number/letter at the beginning of the day, e.g. the number 2.

2. Challenge your child to find this number on items throughout the home ,such as remote controls, post, books, labels, clocks, etc.

3. They could record this digitally by taking photographs. They could also record groups of 2 items, e.g. 2 tea cups, 2 toy cars, etc

4. Equally, you could take them on a number walk during their daily exercise where they could take notes of numbers in the environment such as on houses, bus stops, car registrations, etc. They could also record this digitally.


7. Post-it Challenge – Oonagh McLaughlin

Learning intentions

To examine and compare surface areas.


1. What things in your home can you cover with a post-it? What things are bigger than a post it? Can you record these? (drawing, writing a list, taking photos and sorting them into two albums on a phone/ipad).

2. How could you measure what the post-it will cover? (Using sugar cubes? Lego? Predict how many blocks you will need to cover items such as a seat/table/phone/box…. check to see if you were right)

3. Predict how many post-its would be needed to cover items. Include large items such as your bedroom floor/your quilt/your living room rug/the kitchen table/your whole house. Can you check? If you knew how many post-its would cover one brick, could you calculate how many were needed for a wall? or  your whole house?


8. Shape Sort Match –Traci Hefferon

Match shapes to their outline

Learning intentions

To encourage children to explore the properties of different shapes and match them to their outlines.


1. Find a selection of different shaped objects with your children.

2. Put the shapes on the ground or a piece of board and draw around their outline with chalk or a marker.

3. Mix the shapes up and encourage your children to find the shape that fits the outline.

4. Discuss the difference between shapes and compare their outlines using language such as large/small, long/short sides, curved/straight edges, etc.