Bloomsbury Early Years - Sponge Stacking
The Little Book of Numbers

Activity Type:



3-5 years

Type of Content:


Related Activities

Sponge Stacking

An idea for numbers

by Judith Dancer and Carole Skinner

This activity helps the children to count using touch and feel. The tactile materials will prove much more interesting and exciting than using traditional plastic counting blocks.

What are they learning?

Counting; finding out and exploring

What you need

  • A supply of about thirty differently coloured sponge scourers (pound shops usually sell them in packs of six)

  • Table mats, boxes

  • Baskets

  • Plastic containers and jars

  • Forks and tongs of various sizes

What you do

  • Encourage the children to investigate the feel of the sponges and demonstrate how they change size and shape if they are squashed.

  • Challenge the children to count how many sponges they can balance on a table mat to make a tower.

  • Ask them to estimate how many sponges will fit inside one of the jars or containers.

  • Encourage the children to use tongs and forks to pick up the sponges and fill up a box or cover a box lid – this will help them to develop their fine motor control.

  • Suggest that they sort the sponges into colour sets and make repeating patterns.

What you say

  • Talk to the children about the texture of the sponges, providing additional vocabulary about number, size and shape.

  • Make comments that encourage estimation: “I wonder what the record is for balancing sponges in a tower. Who thinks it might be more than six?”

  • Ask questions such as “How many sponges did you fit in the box?” and “Does anybody want to guess how many we can squash into this smaller box?”

  • Make comments about what is happening: “Oh, I see you are turning the sponges on their sides!”

  • Make links with other experiences: “Remember when we used the large bricks to build towers?”

Ready for more?

  • Attach ten pieces of double-sided masking tape to the wall and attach a sponge to each piece to make a ‘sponge number line’. You could also include a numeral below each sponge to help the children count along the line to ten. Invite the children to close their eyes and count along the line by touching and counting each sponge. When appropriate, extend the line to twenty.

  • Provide large tapestry needles and string. Help the children to thread through the centres of the sponges onto strings – you will need to tie a knot at the end of each string. Thread other materials such as leaves, conkers, pieces of foil and strips of materials onto each string, between the sponges. Hang the strings from windows or ceilings for an eye-catching multisensory display that can be used for counting practice.

Look, listen and note

  • Handle equipment and tools effectively including pencils for writing

  • Good control and co-ordination

  • Numbers & Counting

  • Exploring and using media and materials (ELG16) Sing songs, make music and dance Free expression through media and materials

Where to go next: Bus business
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