Counting Song: The Ants Go Marching

All the kids in this daycare group can recite the numbers up to five or six.  To practice the sequence of numbers and have fun exploring the what the numbers mean, we sang “The Ants Go Marching”.  I had the verses memorized, a plan to draw an ant per verse, a roll of paper pre-cut and markers ready for the kids.  The rest I left up to the questions they might ask.

We did get through the whole song with some detours.  Another time I would save the drawing until the end.  Some interesting observations included the variation in drawing skills and a, for me, the culture shock of kids not being able to share a large piece of paper.

Daycare math - The Ants Go Marching

Details from the scroll of ants and numerals shared by five children.

The kids explored the numerals as the numbers came up in the song, colored in the numerals and counted the cumulative number of ants as well as drew critters with various numbers of legs.  (We quickly concluded that ants which are insects must have six legs each.)

Roll or individual sheaths of paper
Crayons or markers
Lyrics to “The Ants Go Marching” (link to Youtube)

Further reading
“Many three-year-olds may be able to identify a 3, but they don’t understand what 3 means. It’s important for parents to understand the difference between conceptual learning and skill development,” she says. “Instead of flashcards, look for teachable moments, count things that are familiar to the child as she plays or helps you with simple chores. Counting socks, toy cars, or other toys will maintain her attention and have more meaning for her. Play is learning for three and four-year olds. Follow their interests and create environments that encourage creativity and exploration.”
– Grace Davila Coates, Program Director of Family Math, University of California at Berkeley.

Skills practiced: Counting, number recognition, pre-writing, reasoning.


Counting Songs: Five Little Monkeys Hanging From a Tree

My first visit with the 2-5-year-olds at the daycare set the tone:  We sang a counting-back song (and per request sang it again before I left) and made playdough scoops of ice cream to count up to and down from 5.

I introduced the kids to “Five little monkeys hanging in a tree” to practice counting backwards and for the shock effect of the SNAP of the alligator which engages everybody!  The slightly annoying Mr. Mike has a good presentation of the song here:

More resources:

BBC School Radio – Counting Songs:  Videos, lyrics and music for you to learn the songs before singing with kids.

Songs for Teaching – Number Chants and Counting Songs: Teaching Early Mathematics Skills, Shapes, Money and Telling Time