Pretend cooking activities can be a great way for young children to practice early math, develop fine motor skills, expand their creativity, develop vocabulary, follow directions and become more independent. In this pretend baking and crafting activity, children will explore counting objects up to 20 while decorating adorable paper cupcakes.
This activity will help your child:
- Count to tell the number of objects in a group
- Use the numbers counted to answer the question “How many?”
- Follow directions
- Practice fine motor skills
- 2 Pieces of paper for the base and top of the cupcake (a paper plate, empty cereal box or other thin cardboard also works)
- “Toppings” (e.g. sequins, buttons, dry beans, etc.) to make up a total of 20 small objects: a set of 2, a set of 4, a set of 6 and a set of 8. Example: 2 buttons, 4 paper clips, 6 beads, 8 dry beans
- 4 Small containers for collecting objects
- A Large flat surface for sorting and counting
- Glue or tape
1. First, lay all of the “toppings” out on a large flat surface.
2. Ask your child to help sort and count the objects as you put each set into its own container. Encourage your child to count out loud.
3. Now that you have all your ingredients ready, ask your child to draw the base of the cupcake on one sheet of paper and the top of the cupcake on another sheet of paper.
4. Help your child cut the pieces out and glue or tape them together to make the cupcake.
5. Once the cupcake is ready, it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients! Start with the ingredient with the largest number. Ask your child, “Which group has the most? Can you help me count how many beans there are?” Encourage your child to touch the beans when counting.
Tip: Moving and touching objects as they count helps children understand that numbers correspond to specific quantities. This principle of counting is known as one-to-one correspondence.
6. After you know how many beans you have, ask your child to glue them to the cupcake.
7. Continue to add your toppings! You can model this by counting out loud as you add the toppings. “Now we are going to add six beads … 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6! 6 beads.”
Keep the Conversation Going
Try this activity using real ingredients! Decorate your cupcake with sprinkles, M&M’s or/and chocolate chips.
- “Baby Goes to Market” by Atinuke
- “Too Many Tamales” by Gary Soto
Head Start Framing or CCSS-M: Pre-K-1
- This activity covers CCSM-M cardinality and counting, recognize how number works.
Related Stories from PBS SoCal:
— A Fun Pirate-Inspired Fruit Salad Recipe That Helps Children Practice Math Skills
— Make a Colorful Stick Puppet to Learn about Shapes and Problem Solving
— Make Fun Crafts While Counting, Measuring and Weighing Objects With Your Little Ones (Watch How-To Videos in English & Spanish)