Caterpillar Counting

Those foam pool noodles are quickly becoming my favorite “manipulative”. For just $1, we’ve gotten three different uses out of one noodle (the rest of which I’ll share later this week). For this activity, we created a number game that Big Brother was able to complete independently. And it works on number recognition and one-to-one correspondence!

Here’s what you’ll need:  one foam pool noodle, a sharp knife, a Sharpie, rope (I couldn’t find any around here so we used rubber weatherproofing!), and a pipe cleaner. Optional:  hot glue gun and googly eyes.

1. Use a sharp knife to cut the foam noodle. The widths of our pieces varied from 1-2 inches.


Cut 11 pieces total.


2. Use a Sharpie to write the numerals on each piece. I wrote one on the front and one on the back.


Can you see our yellow kitchen in the background. I.can’t.stand it. Oh well, I guess it will stay this way for a while…


3. Add a face.
Optional:  Use a glue gun to add googly eyes and an antenna.


Isn’t he cute?


4. Once you’re ready, put all the pieces and your “rope” in a pile.


5. Tie a knot on one end of the rope.


6. Encourage your child to find #1 first and put it next to the caterpillar face. Then #2 and so on.



Counting the numbers…after he was finished.


This activity could easily be adapted to meet the development of your child by cutting down the number of “numbers” or even adding more!

What creative uses for pool noodles have you found?


  1. We use the $1 pool noodles for baby proofing. I also cut the ridged ones apart to make flower-shaped stamps.
    This is a GREAT idea. An extra step above threading. Love it!

  2. Ack, I was totally looking at the pool noodles this week dreaming of what I could do with them….and now, I'll be going back for some! I also thought of a marble run!

  3. Very cool. I have used pool noodles for modeling letters and numbers with handwriting without tear model writing… Thanks for sharing this hands on idea.

  4. Hi Jenae! We loved this fine motor math activity and featured it here at our blog, Preschool Lesson Plans. We were sure to give photo/idea credit, as well as a link back to your website, but we'd love for you to take a look at it and, if there are any problems, we'll be certain to take the feature down immediately!

    Thanks so much!
    Kayla Johnson
    [email protected]

  5. oh, I am saving this idea for preschool in the fall! better buy the pool noodles now!

  6. Super cute idea, I am gone to use it in my childcare this summer to help the pre-schoolers work on numbers, abcs, and shapes. This would be great to use to pick out patterns. Thanks gonna go buy me so pool noodles. About how much of the pool noodle did you use? I have 18 kids in my class.

  7. How about different color pool noodles, in numerical order, but making a pattern with the colors as you count higher. (Would give a visual clue for self-checking.)

    Blue, green, blue, green, blue green. Got it?

  8. Great Idea! I'd seem pool noodles used for lacing before, but had never thought of the caterpillar tie-in, makes it extra cute. You could also give him a circular mouth and have that be the zero ;) Oh, I can definitely see this used for patterning practice in our future…Thanks!

  9. Thanks so much for this idea; I made it for my 2.5 year old. I can't wait to see what other ideas you have for using these noodles!

  10. My kids (2 & 4) love this activity. I made an alphabet one for my 4 year old to practice ABC order. My 2 year old is working on stringing them and also on patterns. I also made one that was numbers 0-20 for my older one since 1-10 is easy for her now. They love the activity…THANK you for sharing!

  11. I followed you over froom Money-Saving Mom. I love the clean design of your blog, and your caterpillar idea! I look forward to looking through more of your ideas later this week!

  12. Thanks for sharing. Hope to make some of these over the summer…. or maybe some weekend in the New Year. I think our ELLs and struggling learners would enjoy using the noodle numbers for ordering and identification activities. By the way, I like the color of your kitchen… kinda a macaroni yellow!

    Merry Christmas!

  13. Just stopping by to let you know that I’ve featured another great craft on Fun Family Crafts! You can see it here:

    If you have other kid friendly crafts, I’d love it if you would submit them. :) If you would like to display a
    featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above.

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