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Learn Skip Counting with a Homemade Cardboard City

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Learning to count and group numbers while counting is called skip counting. Skip counting forward and backward helps build future math skills (like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)! In this activity we are drawing a night sky, converting recyclable materials into buildings and counting the windows on the finished city.

Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

Build a Cardboard Nighttime City and Learn to Count in Groups

This activity is included in backpacks PBS SoCal shares with parents of young children in our communities. The Frieda Berlinski Foundation is helping us offer these activities as digital tools for other parents who can watch these videos everywhere.

Learning Goal

In this activity, children will create a nighttime city and skip count the windows on buildings two by two using a flashlight.


  • 2 Sheets of black construction paper
  • Sheets of different colors of construction paper
  • Index Cards
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Chalk
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Empty boxes of different sizes (tissue boxes, cereal boxes, etc.)
  • Small toys (optional)
  • Stickers (optional)


Step 1: Create your night sky. Set two sheets of black construction paper next to each other to create one large background. Attach the sheets of paper with tape. Flip the background over.

Step 2: Decorate your sky. Ask your child to use markers, colored pencils and chalk to draw on the construction paper and attach stickers.

Bonus: Ask your child to think of what is usually found in a night sky by starting with the moon and stars. What else can they think of?

Step 3: Create your buildings. Set the longest side of a box on top of construction paper to mark how much construction paper is needed to cover that side of the box. Trace the edges of the box and cut that piece out of the paper. Glue the piece of paper to the side of the box. Repeat with other boxes you want to use as buildings.

Bonus: Would your child like to decorate taller or shorter boxes? Can they find other boxes around the house to use?

Step 4: Add windows to your buildings. Take your index cards and cut them in half. Cut those two pieces in half. Cut those four pieces in half again. Now you have windows. Glue these windows to your buildings in pairs, two by two.

Step 5: Bring the city together. Stand your boxes next to each other and place the night sky in the background to build a cityscape. Add small toys, such as cars.

Step 6: It’s time to count! Shine the flashlight on one of the buildings. Start counting by twos as you shine the light on the top two windows. Continue counting by twos as you move down the next two windows and so forth.

Bonus: How many windows can you count on the first building? Find the tallest building, how high can you count?

Keep the conversation going

  • Are there other objects in your city you can count by twos?
  • Can you count the buildings by twos?
  • Try counting by fours.

Find other activities below:
How to Learn Basic Shapes by Making a Shape Mobile
Learn About Measurements Using a Homemade Scale
Learn to Count to Seven by Making a Duck Necklace

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