Guessing Jar


Great hands on Toddler Math activity that will help your child learn to estimate and practice counting in a fun kids math game. Fill your Guessing Jar with m and m's, conversation hearts and other small items and have your child estimate, count and even record how many are in there.

Math Guessing Jar


  • Baby food jar or small jar

  • Clear Plastic Jars work well for young children like a small peanut butter container.

  • Paint/brush

  • Paint pen (optional)

  • Small dish, tray or muffin tin to count items on


  • Paint the cover of the jar.
  • Write or decorate lid with paint pen. (optional)
  • Keep the glass clear so it is easy to see inside.
  • Fill your jar with 1-10 objects for young children.
  • Have your toddler guess how many are inside. Be sure to monitor if you let your child touch the bottle or use a clear plastic one.
  • If you are interested in introducing graphing print Guessing Jar Graph
  • When your children have estimated how many items she or he thinks there is, write the number down on a piece of paper, and then open jar and count the objects by lining them up on a tray or count into a muffin tin.
  • Point and count to help build one to one correspondence.

Tips and Suggestions

  • For older toddlers, you can slowly add more items. 1-20 or the number they are able to count up to.
  • For classrooms it can be a weekly or monthly activity or even holiday oriented. Put red and green candies for Christmas, Conversation Hearts for Valentines, etc. See our suggestions below.
  • For older children you may want to use a larger jar to make it more challenging
  • Have children make a prediction class or small group graph and then count the actual number at the end of the week or month. Remember no estimation is wrong but you can praise them when they make a "close estimate".
  • Graph different guessing jar amounts and compare which one had more or less.

Holiday Jar Fillers

  • Valentines: Conversation Hearts
  • Easter: Jelly Bellies or Jelly Beans
  • St. Patrick's Day: Lucky Charms Cereal or Marshmallows or Skittles
  • Halloween: Candy Corn
  • Christmas: Green and Red M & M's
Other Items
  • Teddy Grahams
  • Gumballs
  • Red Hots
  • Gumdrops
  • Lemon Drops
  • Colored Paper Clips
  • Marbles
  • Buttons
  • Pasta (colored or plain)
  • Shells
  • Smooth Pebbles (Arts and Crafts stores have these)
  • Pom Poms
  • Cotton Balls
  • Math Counters (teddy bears, etc)

Math Concepts

Numbers and Number Sense

  • Counting
  • Recognize (Read) Numbers
  • Represent (How many is three?)
  • Quantity (More, Less, Equal)

Graphing (Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability)

  • Data Gathering (Collecting information about objects by drawing pictures or making picture graphs)

The reason counting activities are very important is because it helps to develop the three aspects of numbers.

  • Counting in a sequence out loud: 1,2,3, etc.
  • Understanding how much is 3 and being able to show or give three items.
  • Recognizing and writing numbers.

Holiday Gifts or Guessing Jars


Make a holiday themed guessing jar and fill with holiday themed candies and items or it can even be a small gift for someone. Lid was painted and decorated with shamrock stickers. Paint pens are another way to decorate the jar.
Shamrock Guessing Jar or Gift