Summer Counting Mats: Play Dough Math

Help your little ones stay busy with these hands-on play dough counting mats, perfect for summer! Encourage your kids to get creative as they build a variety of ice cream cones while counting to 20.

Do your kids love to get creative and messy with balls of colorful play dough? Whether you make it yourself or buy it from the store, the squishy, moldable dough can lead to hours of entertainment. Why not combine your child’s love of play dough with some meaningful, hands on math? This set of summer counting mats will help your kids recognize the numbers 1-20, and practice counting and subitizing. Plus, they will get in some fine motor practice as they roll, mold and shape balls of dough!

Summer Counting Mats: Prep Work

Before starting, you’ll want to print the set of counting mats. I suggest printing on card stock paper and then laminating for durability.

Laminating them will also make them easier to clean, or allow your kids to write on them with dry erase markers.

Once the mats are prepped, all you need to do is grab a variety of play dough and your kids are ready to count!

Play Dough Counting Mats: Hands On Math FUN

Each mat includes a single number, allowing your child to focus on one number at a time. You can also begin by focusing on numbers 1-5, and gradually work on larger numbers.

Or if your child is older, you can focus on the teen numbers, and focus on understanding each number as “10 and some more.”

Whichever number you start with, there are lots of ways to play with these counting mats.

First, each mat includes the number and the number word.

Your child can roll out “snakes” of dough to “trace” each word with play dough if they would like to.

Or you could provide a dry erase marker and let them practice their number and letter formation as they write each numeral and number word.

Then kids create balls of play dough to fill in the ten frame to match the number. This is a powerful visual that will help kids to subitize, that is, recognize quantities without counting one by one.

Take a moment to look at where your child has placed the dough in the ten frame. Did they start in the top left and fill it in left to right? Did they place them randomly?

Ask them if they can move them around and still represent the same number. Look at different ways to arrange the balls within the frame and see that 3 is still 3…is still 3.

They can then practice counting again as they add ice cream scoops to their ice cream cone.

Encourage creative play by asking what flavors they’re adding. Or what combinations they like to eat on their ice cream. Are they going to mix flavors together? Add toppings? etc.

Extending the Counting Practice:

Once they finish their counting mat, ask them to find that same number of something around the room. For example, if they are working with the number 3, can they find 3 books? 3 windows? 3 pencils? And so on.

Before moving on to another mat, try asking, “What number comes before 3?” and “What number comes after 3?

Or you could give them a few mats to start with and ask them to put the numbers in order before they complete each mat.

And again, this download includes numbers up to 20, so when your kids feel confident with the numbers 1-10, you can move on to the teen numbers.

This might get a bit tricky or tedious with play dough, so I’d encourage you to combine the play dough with a dry erase marker. Let kids trace the numbers and words, while filling in the ten frames with play dough balls.

Or you could even give them small pom pom balls. This way they’re still getting fine motor practice by pinching and placing the balls on the mat, but they don’t have to spend the time forming each ball like they would with the play dough.

However you decide to use these summer counting mats, I hope it is a fun activity for your kids and gets them ready and excited for summer days and some yummy ice cream!

Ready to grab this free printable set of play dough counting mats? Just click the link below to grab it in my shop.

{Click HERE to go to my shop and grab the FREE Summer Counting Mats: Play Dough Ice Cream Cones!}

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