Counting to 5 with Penguins for preschoolers

If there is one thing that can be said about preschoolers, no matter their skill level, it’s that their attention spans cannot be depended upon. That means that an activity that planned on enjoying for 10 minutes is often finished in less than one. But in contrast, there are also activities you would expect to last only moments that can capture their attention for an hour or more. That doesn’t mean that one activity is better or worse than another though. Often tiny bursts of learning can be more effective than an longer activity. As we were counting to 5 with penguins, I quickly realized that this was going to be one of those tiny bursts of learning. Rather than fight with it, I went with the flow and later realized she was paying more attention than I thought.

learning with penguins

Materials needed for Counting to 5 with Penguins:

One recipe for play dough (see below)

One set of at least 5 penguin buttons

White play dough recipe:

3 cups cornstarch

1 1/2 cups hot water

3 Tbsp. oil

3 Tbsp. cream of tartar

Glitter (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until they come together in a play dough-like mass. For me this took 30 seconds.

Let sit in the pan until mostly cool.

Knead with your hands until it is smooth and not sticky.

Because it’s corn starch, I’m not sure how long the dough will last. Ours has been in a zip top bag in our play dough drawer for a week and it’s still fine, but I don’t know if it will last as long as the regular play dough that we make. Our dough did turn a bit crumbly in the bag, but you can press it back together with a minute or two of gentle kneading.

Counting to 5 with Penguins:

I’m all for simple and this activity definitely fits that definition.

Shiloh and I sat down at the table with our play dough and penguins and counted the buttons as we pressed them into the ‘snow’.

Penguin is a new word for Shiloh, it actually sounds something like ‘nen-nin’ and it was fun to listen to her repeat the word as she listened to me counting.

Just like we did with our apple counting activity, we put our finger on each object as we counted it, so that Shiloh would understand that we can use numbers to refer to lots of different objects. She still does not understand one-to-one correspondence nor numerals, but the best way for her to learn is to continue repeating similar activities with slightly different objects.

Even though the activity only lasted a few minutes, I noticed that she was very interested in returning to the penguins when her sister was playing with them later on. She started pressing them into the play dough the same way that I had shown her, so I know that she was paying attention.

5 penguins

I hope you will enjoy this and the other great Polar Animal Activities from the Playful Preschool team!

Polar Animal Literacy Activities:

Walrus Dive for Letters from Capri + 3
Polar Bear Paw Walk Preschool Alphabet Game by Growing Book by Book

Polar Animal Science and Sensory Activities:

How do Animals Stay Warm by Rainy Day Mum
Arctic World by Learning 2 Walk

Polar Animal Movement Activities

Polar Animals Gross Motor Games by Still Playing School

Polar Animal Math Games and Activities:

Polar Bear Math Game by The Educators’ Spin On It
Polar Bear Activities and Books for Preschool by The Preschool Toolbox Blog

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16 Comments

    1. We had so much fun with it! It doesn’t seem to last as long as regular play dough, but it provided a few cheap play times!

  1. Great activity! The penguin buttons are so cute. I will have to make your sparkly play dough. It would be a hit in our house.

  2. Those penguins are adorable. I love the fun way you used them in a learning activity. I imagine that would also turn into long sessions of pretend play after the counting was done.

  3. What a fun way to play and learn at the same time – I love things that they go off and play themselves afterwards – we’re at the stage where T takes her doll to her play school at home and does the activities with her.

  4. I love that after a learning experience they go off and show that they were paying attention. So many times it feels like our lessons didn’t go well but then they show something of what they learned to their sisters.

  5. Awe – super cute. I’m ready to make some home-made playdough this week. I had to pick up more cream-of-tartar from the store!

    1. I’ve bought a big, bulk bag of cream of tartar on Amazon. It’s the only way to have enough for our play dough addiction!