It can be really easy to think that Mathematical concepts like ten frames are beyond a toddler. I am a big believer in the power of exposure when it comes to learning at home. Ten frames can be as simple or complex as you make them, that’s why they are a great way to teach toddlers about number sense in a play based environment.

What you need:

What is a Ten Frame and How Do I Make One?

A ten frame is simply a rectangular shape divided into ten sections. A great way to make ten frames more toddler-friendly is to go big by using tape on a table or tray. This gives them more space to work on and avoids them getting frustrated with a fiddly small ten frame. We want the focus to be all about the numbers here! Simply mark out a large rectangle shape with your tape (we use painter’s tape as it is always nice and easy to remove), and then add extra tape dividers to create ten equally sized sections.

How to Set Up the Activities

It is really important to make sure that your activity space is well organized and not too overwhelming. I always start off the session by getting things prepped solo and clearing any clutter to avoid my little one hanging round and losing interest. This meant taping down the ten frame, getting the counters out, as well as the dice and numbers (but I didn’t place these extras out as part of the initial set up).

Activity 1: Time to Explore

This is super important. I never expect my toddler to start an activity by following loads of detailed instructions. The first thing we do is talk about the set up and see what she makes of it. I loved that straight away she told me that each box was a house and that she needed to put all of the same types of animals in their houses. Before I even said anything at all she was off, sorting and completely engaged! As she was moving the animals into their sections, she enjoyed testing out the different tools provided, she also enthusiastically role played with the animals, and she finished up by counting the number of animals in each ‘house’.

Activity 2: Number Draw

This one didn’t go at all as I intended but that doesn’t mean to say that important learning wasn’t taking place. The plan was that she would close her eyes and pick a number from the bowl. We would work together to identify the number and then she would put one animal in that number of ten frame sections. She had other ideas and I was more than happy to go with it. She closed her eyes, picked a number, read it or asked me for help, and then placed it at the top of the ten frame box. She declared that the number was the house number and she added that many animals to the box. There was still lots of numeracy work happening so I was more than happy to follow her lead. By the end she had numbered all of the boxes and was counting 1-10 confidently.

Activity 3: Roll the Dice

A similar activity to above, the idea here was to roll the dice and add that number of counters to the ten frame. This time she was totally on board and the activity went as planned. To extend the learning we decided to count how many boxes were empty and I explained that this was how many more we needed to make ten. She is only 3 so there is no expectation for her to pick these concepts up now, but I think it is well worth exposing her to the language and materials through play!

Do you use ten frames with your toddlers? What are their favorite activities with them, we’d love to hear!