Developing Number Sense with Cookbooks and Play

Using cookbooks and play to develop number sense_ My Little Bookcase

Unless she is using the remote control to flick television channels, pressing the buttons in a lift  or measuring ingredients for a cake, my Cammy is not remotely interested in numbers.

As well as a little fetish for cookbooks, what Cammy loves to do is bake, play, create, decorate and tell stories. So, I recently set up an invitation  incorporating these interests to help her develop an interest in numbers, and provide an opportunity for us to talk about them.

What you need:

An invitation to play with numbers_My Little Bookcase

  • A number cake cookbook (I picked up this mini-cookbook at my local supermarket for $4)
  • A book stand
  • Number outlines/templates (optional).
  • Playdough (in a range of colours). Here is a link to my favourite playdough recipe.
  • Playdough tools (e.g. cookie cutters and knives)
  • A range of loose parts (We used buttons, sequins, foam shapes,  felt strips, paddle pop sticks, pom poms, straws, candles)

What happened?

I simply displayed the cookbook on the book stand, and sat it alongside a pile of laminated number placemats and a tray of playdough and loose parts.

Before long, Cammy was flicking through the cookbook and choosing a cake to ‘bake.’

Using cookbooks to develop number recognition

In no time,  she had already strayed from the images and was decorating the cakes to her own heart’s desire.

Using cookbooks to develop number recognition_ My Little Bookcase

But, it didn’t really matter how she was decorating the number cakes. I was hoping to engage her in conversations about numbers. Some of the questions I asked:

  • Why did you choose this number cake?
  • What do you know about this number?
  • Where have you seen this number?
  • How many legs does an insect have?
  • Why is this cake in the shape of an octopus?
  • What else has eight legs?
  • How many candles will you need?
  • What type of cake will your teddy need next year?
  • How many candles will he have on his cake next year? Show me.
  • What if someone was turning 68? What type of cake would you make for them?

Using cookbooks to develop number sense_My Little Bookcase

Lighting the candles and singing happy birthday to her teddies was part of the fun. After all, this activity was not meant to feel like a ‘lesson’.

Developing number sense using cookbooks_My Little Bookcase

Developing sense through play_My Little Bookcase

During this activity of play and creating, Cam was able to recognise numbers, manipulate their shapes, talk about their properties, relate to them by drawing on her prior knowledge, count, use one-to-one correspondence, demonstrate the ability to subitise and undertake some simple algorithms….all while doing the things she loves.

If you love this post be sure to join one of our communities for more literacy-based inspiration, or subscribe to our mailing list so you don’t miss out on future posts.

About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

Developing Number Sense with Cookbooks and Play


  1. This is so wonderful Jackie! I love how purposeful and well thought out your invitations to play are. Just what Cammy needs but FUN, FUN, FUN!!

    • Thank you Amy! Sometimes I see some really fabulous ideas online but you really have to start by concentrating on your own child and their interests :)

  2. Such a fun invitation to create and a wonderful way to combine Cammy’s interests for an engaging learning experience. I love that you lit the candles :) Cake books have inspired many wonderful play dough creations in our home too :)

  3. Love this one, Jackie! Sharing and pinning.

  4. So much fun! I definitely would have never thought of this. Thanks.

  5. Kate said: On March 8, 2014

    Such a great idea. I love it and what a great way to get children to use numbers in such a creative way.

  6. Simply awesome :)

Leave a Reply

Developing Number Sense with Cookbooks and Play

2 Trackbacks