Young children have a remarkable skill: they can recognise numbers of things without counting.  This is called subitising, and it develops from a very early age.

Snack and mealtimes present many opportunities for children to practise counting or subitising at nursery as they find ‘how many’. The context of food and drink provides a real and important reason to know ‘how many’ as they need to make sure that everyone gets their food and drink and in the correct amounts. At Granby Parkgate it is interesting to see how children use their mathematical understanding in this context.


Children can count (or subitise for smaller numbers) how many people there are and how many utensils there are for the meal or snack (e.g., plates, bowls, spoons, or cups). They can also count (or subitise) to find how many food items there are available (such as toast pieces, orange segments, carrot sticks, pots of yoghurt) or how many they need to get for themselves (get three crackers from the packet or bowl).  After we encourage children to help us tidy up by stacking the cups or plates in 3s or they might tell us how many crackers are left for next time.


Subitising can be all around us, from counting or seeing the number of legs an insect has or points on a star.


See if you can think of different ways to support your child’s subitising skills in your home or when out and about.


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