How to teach kids how to count backwards

Updated April 17, 2017

Although learning to count may be easy for some kids, learning to count backwards may be an entirely different story. When your child begins school and must subtract, counting backwards becomes a vital skill. With patience, repetition, engaging activities and praise, you can successfully teach your child to count backwards and prepare him for elementary school math.

Teach your child how to count forward. Use repetition, read counting books and count objects together until she can count from 1 to 10. Place numbered flashcards in numerical order and practice counting forward, then quiz your child; ask her to tell you the numbers on the flashcards in random order. Counting forward and recognising numbers by sight will make counting backwards much simpler.

Show your child ten fingers. Put one down and say "nine." Put another down and say, "eight." Count backwards to one. Children learn easily through repetition; repeat this activity several times a day.

Count forward to ten, then ask your child what number comes before ten. When your child replies, "nine," ask what comes before nine. Count backwards through the numbers.

Walk forward ten steps with your child, counting each step as you take it. At ten, reverse your steps and walk backwards, counting each step in reverse order.

Count during snack time. Give your child 10 snacks, such as raisins, crackers or candies. Ask your child to count the snacks. Let him eat one snack, then ask him how many are left. Continue snacking and counting until the snacks are gone.

Teach your child counting songs, such as "Alice the Camel," "Five Little Monkeys" and "Five Little Ducks." Begin the song at 10 instead of 5 when your child is ready.

Read stories and books that involve counting backwards, such as "Ten Little Ladybugs" by Melanie Gerth or "Bird Songs: A Backwards Counting Book" by Betsy Franco.

Work on dot-to-dot games in reverse order. Your child will enjoy counting backwards and the picture will look the same at the end.

Give your child numbered flashcards in random order and ask her to put them in reverse order.

Play hopscotch. Count the numbers out loud as your child hops forward; count backward as he jumps in reverse order.

Play "Blast Off." Crouch down so your bodies are low to the ground. Count from 10 to 1, shout "Blast Off" and jump into the air as high as you can.


Increase the starting number of each activity as your child becomes proficient. Begin the activities at random numbers, such as 7 or 14. Offer praise every time your child counts backwards correctly. Give corrections when needed.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashcards
  • Snacks
  • Counting books
  • Dot-to-dot games
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About the Author

Tess Reynolds began writing in 2010 for various websites, specializing in parenting, relationships, film and video-editing topics. She has taken private local classes to expand on her interests. She also enjoys writing about computers, family and home improvement.