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Counting Rhymes for Preschoolers

Even though preschoolers are not ready for formal lessons, many educational concepts can be presented casually. One of the most enjoyable methods is through rhyme, to which young children naturally respond. The popularity and longevity of nursery rhymes attest to this fact.

Simple rhymes which are fun to learn, valuable for memory training, and also teach material which will be useful for later Mathematics lessons include, (but are by no means limited to) the following.

* Counting to 10:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
I caught a fish alive.
6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
I threw him back again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so.
Which finger did he bite?
This little finger on the right!

At first, a toddler will clap to these words. Later, he can hold up the appropriate number of fingers.
1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, 4,
5 potato, 6 potato, 7 potato, more!
1, 2, buckle my shoe
3, 4, shut the door
5, 6, pick up sticks
7, 8, lay them straight
9, 10, a big fat hen
11, 12, dig and delve
13, 14, maids a-courting,
15, 16, cooks in the kitchen,
17, 18, supper’s waiting
19, 20, my plate’s empty!
This old man, he played 1,
He played knick knack on my thumb,
With a knick knack, paddy whack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

Continue, inserting the following for lines 1 and 2, but keeping the rest of the verse the same.

This old man, he played 2,
He played knick knack on my shoe,

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This old man, he played 3,
He played knick knack on my knee,

This old man, he played 4,
He played knick knack on my door,

This old man, he played 5,
He played knick knack on my hive,

This old man, he played 6
He played knick knack on my sticks,

This old man, he played 7,
He played knick knack up to heaven,

This old man, he played 8,
He played knick knack on my gate,

This old man, he played 9,
He played knick knack on my vine,

This old man, he played 10,
He played knick knack over again.

* Ordinal numbers, first to fifth:

Five little sparrows sitting in a tree
The first one said, “What do I see?”
The second one said, “I see the street.”
The third one said, “And seeds to eat.”
The fourth one said, “The seeds are wheat.”
The fifth one said, “Tweet, tweet, tweet.”

The child holds up left hand, fingers parted and extended. As he moves through the rhyme, he points to the appropriate finger. The thumb is first, pointing finger second, etc.

* Counting backwards:

One little, two little, three little, Indians,
Four little, five little, six little Indians,
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians,
Ten little Indian boys.

Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians,
Seven little, six little, five little Indians,
Four little, three little, two little Indians,
One little Indian boy.

This is often sung. It is helpful in teaching finger control if the child can raise and fold under the appropriate number of fingers as he sings.

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The child who enters Kindergarten with the ability to count by rote to 20, and count objects in a set to 10, together with good finger control enabling him to color neatly and start printing readiness exercises, will delight his teacher.