You can use Mary had a Little Lamb to teach a child of any age how to skip count by 4.
Any child can learn to skip count the 4s with this simple song! This post includes an explanation of how to teach skip counting by 4, simple ideas for practicing counting by 4, and a counting by 4 chart.
If the child you’re teaching is very young, do not worry about the concept of skip counting. Seriously, just get the mp3s and let your child listen to them every day while playing or in the car, or at breakfast. For very young children, just play the skip counting songs for fun and focus their math foundations on developmentally appropriate things like 1-to-1 counting, number writing, number recognition, making and breaking numbers, and number sense within 10.
Our youngest children have heard all of our learning songs since birth because the other kids were singing them. By the time the baby is 5, they just start rattling off the songs they heard for the last 5 years (but couldn’t articulate). The power of music for retention is crazy awesome.
Once your child is in kindergarten or 1st grade, they’ll probably be able to understand the concept of counting by 2s. Eventually, that will translate to nickels (5s) and dimes (10s). In turn, the child will understand all skip-counting and eventually multiplication. For a more complete overview on how and when to teach skip counting (and why!) read this article.
If you have a child who is old enough to conceptually understand what it means to skip count by 4, here are things you can do at home.
Introduce the concept of skip counting
Explain to the child that skip counting is counting by a certain number, but skipping some numbers in between.
Use a visual aid such as a number line, hundreds chart, or our printable skip counting flashcards, which has the visual of equal groups and the list of numbers in the four sequence.
Teach the multiples of 4
Begin with the multiples of 4 (4, 8, 12, 16, etc.) and have the child repeat after you as you count.
This is where you would incorporate our Mary Had a Little Lamb skip counting song.
Practice over and over.
To count forward by 4’s, start with the number 4 and have the child say each multiple of 4 as you go along, such as: 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, and so on. Encourage the child to say the numbers out loud and to count confidently.
You can use an mp3 player app to slow our songs down or speed them up for fun, repetitive practice.
You can also say/ sing in different silly voices or while doing actions.
Try it Backwards!
Write the 4s sequence up on a dry erase board or piece of paper. (My kids’ favorite option is writing with a dry erase marker on a window.) If the child is old enough, they can write the numbers themselves.
Try chanting the 4s backwards now – don’t sing it though, that will confuse the memorization process.
When teaching skip counting by 4’s, it’s important to help the child practice counting both forward and backward. This will help them develop a deeper understanding of the concept and improve their ability to count in a variety of ways.
To count backward by 4’s, start with 48, and have the child say the next number going backwards, such as: 48, 44, 40, 36, 32, 28, 24, 20, 16, and so on.
It’s important to note that counting backward can be more challenging for some children, so it’s okay if they need more practice with this skill. You can also use a visual aid, such as a number line or hundreds chart, to help the child see the sequence of numbers as they count forward and backward by 4’s.
Overall, practicing counting forward and backward by 4’s regularly can help the child become more comfortable with skip counting and prepare them for more advanced math concepts down the road.
Use objects like counting blocks or beads to help the child physically skip count by 4’s.
I like to use 12 index cards in rows of 5 and then allow a child to put 4 objects on each one. Goldfish, cheerios, pennies, raisins, chocolate chips… anything small will work for this activity.
Apply skip counting to real life scenarios
Or made-up scenarios that could occur in real life.
Count groups of items in sets of 4 or counting money in sets of 4… Make up scenarios such as:
“Each child in the family earns $4.00. How much did they earn in all?”
“These 7 people all get 4 cookies each! How many cookies do they eat all together?”
Count by 4s Chart
Honestly, my equal groups flash cards are my favorite skip counting resource I’ve seen. LOL I know I’m biased. But I created them for my own kiddos because I wanted something easy to print, clear, and that showed the actual concept on the flashcard.
Missing Numbers Game
Write the 4s sequence with one number on each post-it. Line them all up, and have the child sing the song for review.
Then, pull a couple post-its out and hide them. See if the child can guess what’s missing. They can count up or down by 4 from nearby numbers. OR they can sing the song to get to the missing number.
If your child isn’t familiar with 10 frame math, this Abacus kit can help kids of any math level gain a strong number sense.
Can you figure out a bigger number?
Give the child a blank hundred chart & see if they can quickly circle or cover the first 12 numbers in the counting by 4s pattern. Then, ask them if they can figure out a number bigger than 70 that will be in the sequence if you continue counting by 4s.
Even & Odd Number
With the even number skip counting, it’s fun for kids to realize they will never have an odd number in the sequence.
With older kids, this can lead to an interesting realization/ discovery about even numbers being divisible by 2.
Also, all the 4s are also in the 2s. Writing out both the 2s skip counting and the 4s on a number line can help kids see the overlap.
Multiplication Tables & Multiplication Facts
As kids progress in math, their knowledge of skip counting will help them have a deeper understanding of multiplication. I highly recommend spending some time on skip counting in 1st-3rd grade prior to tackling the multiplication tables.
More Skip Counting & Math Resources
- Skip Count to Familiar Tunes – practice all 12 skip counting songs in less than 10 minutes total!
- Skip Counting by 8 – another short & sweet skip counting song
- 30 Simple Skip Counting Activities with Free Printables – super cute & simple ideas in here for different math levels.
- Skip Counting by 2 – song, flashcards, activities, ideas (great for kids ages 5-7)