Let's start with the younger ages. Here's a few things you can do:* Counting! See this post to deal with a common counting mistake.
* Sort by color, shape, size, or attribute (small and big, wrinkly and smooth, etc).
*Call out a color and have him/her find the correct color.
* Call out a number and have him/her count out the correct number or items to give to you.
Tallying for older kids:
Supplies: pretzel sticks (or short straws work), and some kind of item to count/sort. M&Ms work, skittles, grapes (though you may have to chase them! They tend to roll around a bit). We chose gummy bears.
Prep: Gather materials. Separate your kids far enough apart so they have room to work.
Steps: Put the pile of pretzels in the middle of the table. When you give them a scoop of their item they will be able to grab the amount they need.
Next, give each child a scoop of Gummy Bears. Use your own discretion as to how many they need. If you are teaching tallying, show your child how one item means one tally mark, three items means three, and five looks like this:
1111. This is a time for learning and practicing, so be patient!
Have them count the scoop of Gummy Bears and use the pretzel sticks to tally how many they have counted.
For younger children, it may be best to keep it from 1 to 5. Older children can practice with larger stacks.