Grab Bag Fun

In this lesson, children will correctly count the number of objects representing the number on a card.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Numbers and Operations

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Connecting number words and numerals to the quantities that they represent, using various physical models and representations
  • Associating numbers with sets of objects up to 10

Grab Bag Fun

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Index cards marked with a number word and the numeral up to 10 (e.g., Three → 3)
  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • Markers or crayons
  • 55-60 small counting objects (e.g., pennies, blocks, dried kidney beans)
  • The book, How do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen and Mark Yeague

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain to the children that today they are going to be counting to 10 and working with the numbers 1-10.
  2. Ask questions about counting to 10. For example: “Who knows how to count to 10? Using your fingers, can someone show me the number three? Can someone show me the number seven?”
  3. Introduce the book, How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?
  4. Say: “Let’s look at the cover. What do you think is going to happen in this book?”
  5. Read the book. Pause on a few, but not all, of the pages and ask the children to identify the number of objects that the dinosaur is counting. For example: If the book reads “three toy trucks painted blue, red and green,” ask: “Who can come up and count out the trucks?”
  6. Show children a paper bag containing an index card with a number on it. 
  7. Explain that each bag has a number in it. (Each child will receive a bag with a number inside. The child will pull out his/her number, look at the number and then use the counters to show the quantity written on the card by placing the correct amount of counters in the bag.)
  8. Review the numerals and number words with the children, using the marked index cards. Place each index card into a separate paper bag after reviewing it.
  9. Model the activity. Take a bag, draw out the number and read the number on the card. Say: “Who can help me with the number on my card? Four. That’s correct. Who can help me count out four? What should I do with the four once I have counted them out? Oh, put them in my bag. Thank you.” It also might be necessary to model one-to-one correspondence while counting.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Make sure the children have enough counters (55-60). Spread the counters out so that they will be accessible to the children. Some children may want to count out their objects by putting them directly into their bags. Other children may want to separate out their objects and count them again before placing them in their bags.
  2. Share and talk about the children’s findings. Once the children are finished and feel confident about their work, have the children sit in a circle with their bags and give them the opportunity to share their work.
  3. Ask the children what numbers they had in their bags. “Can you show us how many counters represent that number?”
  4. Redirect a child whose counters do not represent their printed number. For example, if a child says they have the number three and dumps out five counters from his/her bag, encourage the child to re-examine his/her process by involving the other children and going over the steps of the activity again. “Johnny’s card says three. Johnny, using the counters from your bag, can you count out three? Let’s all help Johnny count out three.” It is important to continue to empower the children by helping them realize that they have made a mistake. We learn from our mistakes and it is okay to let others help us fix our mistakes.
  5. Extend the children’s vocabulary by asking the group to compare the amounts in their bags: “Who has the bag with the most counters? Who has the bag with the least counters?”
  6. Have two children stand in the circle and compare the amounts in their bags. Say: “Sally has nine counters in her bag. Billy has four counters in his bag. Who has more counters?”
  7. Ask the group: “Who has more counters than Billy? Who has less counters than Sally?”

Additional Extensions

  • Older children can draw the numeral and the number word on their bags, as well as symbols to represent the number in each bag. They can use their cards to help them with this activity.
  • The group can line up in sequential order according to the amounts in their bags. They can line up from the smallest to biggest number or vice versa. Have them number off once they are in the correct order.
  • Increase the numbers to 11-20.
  • Mix up the colors of the counters (have red, blue and yellow blocks) and, once the children have taken the correct amount of counters for their bags, using the various colors, have them compare the amount. “I have more red blocks than yellow blocks. Three red blocks and one blue block and two yellow blocks equal six blocks.”

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • More than, less than, the same: Words used to compare quantity (e.g.,”Sally has nine counters. Billy has four counters. Sally has more counters than Billy.”)
  • The most, the least: Words used to compare quantity (e.g.,”Who has the most amount of counters? Who has the least amount of counters?”)
  • Numeral: The symbol used to represent a number or “how many” (e.g.,”The numeral 4 represents how many counters I have in my bag.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not have one-to–one correspondence
  • Not be able to sit in a circle listening to others for an extended period of time
  • Not be able to count beyond five
  • Not yet recognize numbers
Child care providers may:
  • Provide assistance when children are counting, helping them with one-to-one correspondence
  • Tell the toddler the number that is written on the index card inside the toddler’s lunch bag
  • Use only numbers 1-5
  • Write the numeral on the index card, but not the word number
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Want to write the number of counters on their bags and draw symbols to represent their numbers
  • Want to compare their numbers to the numbers of other children
  • Be able to work with numbers higher than 10
  • Want to write out, using letters, their numbers on the bags
Child care providers may:
  • Use the extension activity suggested and have children draw symbols to represent their numbers or write the number words that represent their numerals
  • Reinforce vocabulary by engaging the children in a dialogue about the amount of objects in their bags
  • Have the children compare their amounts with other children. Pair and share. Ask: “Who has more counters? How many more counters? Who has the least amount of counters?”

Suggested Books

  • How do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague (New York: Blue Sky Press, 2004)
  • Anno’s Counting Book by Anno Mitsumasa (New York: Harperfestival, 1993)
  • Any simple counting book will work with this lesson. The book needs to feed into the way a child thinks and identifies with the concepts of counting by ones to the number 10.

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Tell the children to bring their bags outside and ask them to collect the number of items (acorns, leaves, rocks) that represent the numbers on the index cards in their bags.

Web Resources

Animated games that engage the child while developing number sense and problem-solving strategies:

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