We know math might have a bad rap, but learning numbers (even addition and subtraction) doesn’t have to be a bore for pint-sized counters. So break out the sidewalk chalk, fill up the water balloons, and unpack the bubble wrap, because with the easy activities you’ll discover below, getting kids to recognize their numbers is as easy as 1-2-3.

photo: Jamie Reimer via Hands On As We Grow

Pop Goes The Number
They’re going to do it anyway, so why not make popping bubble wrap an educational opportunity? Hands-on mama-of-three Jamie Reimer has the details at Hands On As We Grow.

photo: Mary Catherine/Fun-a-Day

Counting Rocks!
Young counters can play a variety of counting games with these handmade number rocks: match number pairs; line them up from 1-9; and see what happens when you put one number in front of another. Fun-loving mom Mary Catherine shares the step-by-step scoop on her site, Fun-a-Day.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Splashing Digits
Would your kiddo like a few water balloons to smash? Yes, please! When the weather warms up, let your cute calculator get a little wet with this easy number identification game that requires only water balloons and chalk. Check out the details on Coffee Cups and Crayons.

photo: Chelsey Marashian/Buggy and Buddy

Apples Up on Top!
Your Sir Issac Newton-in-training will adore this activity that pays homage to a rhythmic little story (by Dr. Seuss) about a bunch of silly animals stacking apples on their heads. Using felt and Velcro, kids can stack up apples and compare their load to a friend or sibling’s. Check out Buggy and Buddy for the details.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Shoot the Sum
We love this easy activity because there are just three steps: stack up numbered cups, ask your little shooters to knock them down, and (if they can) add up the total. Kids will delight in shooting and knocking stuff down, but really they’re (Shhhhh!) learning simple addition as well as simple number identification. Parents who don’t allow toy guns can substitute with ping-pong balls or air rockets (see above). Get the details from British Mom-of-three Hannah at No Time For Flashcards.

photo: Chelsey Marashian via Buggy and Buddy

Roll for Results
Let your kids roll the dice and plink their beads into a bowl. This simple counting game lets kids practice counting while they race to get all their beads (or jellybeans, or goldfish, or whatever small object you choose) into their bowl before you do. Get the instructions from Chelsey at Buggy and Buddy.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Linear Learning
Learning numbers doesn’t have to be a desktop affair. Instead, use this equation for getting antsy kiddos outside and moving: sidewalk chalk, a paved place to scribble, and a simple running game . Draw a line, mark out numbers, then tell your running mathematician to sprint to the numbers as you call them out. More advanced counters can add and subtract their way up and down the line. You can thank Coffee Cups and Crayons for the idea!

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Number Hunting
You don’t need much to get your kids scavenging in the dirt; but we love this easy number hunt game which lets little ones scour the outdoors and search for the numbers 1-10—totally edu-taining! Get more details on how to create your own version over at Making Boys Men.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

Number Maze
Here’s another easy outdoor activity that requires only sidewalk chalk. Kids will learn how to count to 10 (and figure out their lefts and rights) by winding through a simple number maze. Find out more at Hands On As We Grow.

What’s your favorite number game or activity? Share with us in a comment below!

—Melissa Heckscher