How Many Bears on the Bed?


  • To solve problems using 1, 2, and 3 objects. (Children should be able to identify quantities of 1, 2, and 3, and count to 3, before doing this activity.)

A construction paper rectangle for a bed; 3 bear counters for each child (Generic counters can represent bears.) Children's book that has three characters.

How many

Literature Suggestion
Read Peace at Last by Jill Murphy, a version of The Three Bears, or another book that has three characters.

  • Invite children to play "Copy Cat" with you.
  • Tell them that you are going to do things and count, and they must be copycats and do what you do.
  • Clap 2 times and say, "This time I'll be the copycat." Then turn around and clap 2 times again. "Let's do it together. This time I'll slap my knees and count. Then you be copy cats and slap your knees and count."
  • Continue, using 1, 2, and 3 actions, with the children mimicking your words and actions each time.


  • Teach children how to solve problems using objects. Use the bear counters and have children repeat your phrases and actions.
  • Say, "One little bear went to bed," and put 1 bear on the bed. (Children duplicate.) "One more little bear went to bed. Add another bear. Let's count 1, 2. Now there are 2 little bears in bed. 1 more little bear went to bed. Add the third bear. Now there are 3 little bears in bed."
  • "Show me 2 bears in the bed." Help children count out 2 and get them in the bed. Put 1 more bear in the bed. "How many bears are in the bed?" (3) "One little bear got out of bed. What do you do?" (Take 1 out.) "How many bears are still in bed?" (Children should count and say 2.) Continue with simple problems until children are comfortable moving the 3 bears.
Keep the number of bears at 3 and add a chair (a paper circle of a different color from the rectangular bed) to the setting. Have children use the counters and "chair" to solve problems like the following: "One little bear was in bed and 2 little bears were on the chair. 1 little bear got out of the bed and sat on the chair. How many bears were on the chair? On the bed?"

Observation Assessment

  • Proficient - Child can follow directions and use up to 3 objects to solve simple problems.
  • In Process - Child can count to 3, but experiences difficulty using objects to solve simple problems.
  • Not Yet Ready - Child does not yet count to 3 or use objects to solve simple problems.

Excerpted from School Readiness Activity Cards. The Preschool Activity Cards provide engaging and purposeful experiences that develop language, literacy, and math skills for preschool children.

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