It’s never too early to start familiarising your children with numbers and counting, and books can be a great way to spark their interest. Together with drawing their attention to numbers in the world around them, sharing counting books with kids is a logical way to help them engage with numbers and begin to learn to count. To help you sort through the plethora of counting books available for preschoolers, here are some of my favourites, many of which are very interactive and fun for the grown-up readers as well!
Board Books for the Littlies
The You’re Series
Written by Shelley Unwin, Illustrated by Katherine Battersby
This lovely series celebrates the early years of a child’s life, with individual books highlighting the joy of being one, two, three, four and five. The gentle rhyming text explores many exciting things about each age, for instance in Now You’re Three, readers can make connections with the Three Little Pigs, a three-legged race, three wheels on a tricycle, three sides on a triangle, and three cheers on their birthday! Together with the colourful illustrations and friendly characters, these books are sure to become favourites and make wonderful birthday presents for children aged one to five.
Count with Little Fish
Written & illustrated by Lucy Cousins
Those looking for a simple board book to introduce counting to young babies can do no better than this – Lucy Cousins’ rhyming text and gorgeous bright illustrations (familiar from her prolific Maisy series) will be an instant hit with babies and young children alike. Cousins’ new Little Fish series of board books also includes lift-the-flap and interactive puppet books that would make great additions to your collection.
Counting for Animal Lovers
Written & illustrated by Quentin Blake
This Quentin Blake classic about a man who drives his ten pet cockatoos so crazy that they escape from their conservatory just to get a bit of peace and quiet, may not seem like a counting book at first. However, on closer inspection, viewers are actually being invited to find the cockatoos hiding on each page – one on the first page, two on the second etc. Children delight in finding hidden clues within illustrations, and counting the birds hiding in each room of Cockatoos makes this book great fun!
Hippos Go Berserk
Written & illustrated by Sandra Boynton
Sandra Boynton’s gift for simple rhyming text is put to great use in this book, counting the hippos as they gather for a giant house party, and then disperse again the following day. Both the words and illustrations reflect Boynton’s dry sense of humour, and the large numerals at the top of each page make it easy for kids to follow along with the counting.
Ten Little Ladybugs
Another of my own kids’ favourites, thanks to the fun they had counting the little plastic ladybugs through the cut-out holes on each page. This is a gentle story with lovely rhyme and appealing illustrations, with firm cardboard pages that make it a good choice for little counters.
Counting Books with a Message
Written & Illustrated by Graeme Base
It’s easy to lose yourself for hours in Graeme Base’s beautiful detailed illustrations, and one of the joys of this book is finding and counting all the animals on each page. Readers follow along as animals from all over the world gather together to drink at the waterhole, and the book has an important message about sustainability to impart to readers as well. The Waterhole also comes in a simplified board book version, perfect for very young readers.
Written & illustrated by Maria van Lieshout
This is a perfect book to buy before you take your kids on their first flight. You can read it together in preparation for going to the airport, to familiarize them with what they might see there. The large numbers and simple text make it easy for kids to follow along as you count one airport, two luggage carts, three check-in desks etc. Older children will love the end of the book, which includes some larger numbers, from 100 seatbelts to the airplane flying 33,000 feet above the ground.
Won’t You Sing With Me?
Child’s Play Counting Song Books
Some of the books from educational publisher Child’s Play are familiar from my own childhood, including their brilliant There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. However Child’s Play also publishes both board book and paperback picture book versions of many classic counting songs, often with cut out holes in the pages for a more interactive reading experience. Some of my kids’ favourites were Over in the Meadow, This Old Man, Five Little Ducks, Five Little Men, Ten Little Monkeys, and Ten Fat Sausages. Great songs with gorgeous illustrations make for a range of books that will be loved for many years. Perhaps the easiest way to find these titles is direct from their website, www.childsplay.com.au.
This Jazz Man
Written by Karen Ehrhardt, Illustrated by R. G. Roth
You may have realized by now that I love singing picture books – what better opportunity to flex my vocal muscles, than when my audience is so engrossed in a book that they won’t tell me how terrible my singing voice is?! This book is one of my favourites – it is a variation on the classic nursery rhyme ‘This Old Man’, which instead counts the members of a jazz band and their instruments. Both adult and child readers will be tapping their toes in time to the song, and can even read about some real life jazz legends at the back of the book.