My 3-year-old daughter can count well (I guess that is relative, but anyway). She understands the idea that numbers represent quantities. If I ask her how many pebbles she has or how many steps there are, etc., she will count out loud and give the right answer. She counts beyond 10, but it gets more fuzzy over 10. She can even do some basic arithmetic. She also gets the symbols right for each number most of the time.

The problem is that she always skips 7. She goes straight from 6 to 8. I correct her and then she gets it right, but the next time she will skip 7 again. She has been doing that for as long as she could count which is since she was about 2.

What should I do to change it?

  • 6
    Be patient. Continue to count with her, she'll be fine.
    – Stephie
    Jul 22, 2015 at 10:00
  • 6
    One... two... FIVE!
    – Patrice
    Jul 22, 2015 at 14:20
  • 3
    @Patrice My thoughts exactly! youtube.com/watch?v=xOrgLj9lOwk&t=128
    – mattdm
    Jul 22, 2015 at 14:22
  • 10
    @Michael well, 7 ate 9, so fear is understandable...
    – Acire
    Jul 22, 2015 at 15:47
  • 9
    I have a friend who would skip 3 when she was younger because she was afraid of the number 3 because she would get in trouble if her mom counted all the way to 3. Jul 22, 2015 at 21:53

4 Answers 4


It's a common issue at around that age, both ours had issues with '6' for some reason and skipped from 5 to 7 and the younger one later got stuck with '13' for a short while. The best thing to do is practice with them and they will get there.

Practicing counting as a song / rhyme (like 1-2 buckle my shoe) is one good way to help them to remember the sequence and has worked for us in the past.

Something we also did was to look for opportunities to count up to that 'missing' number. You'll soon start seeing 7's everywhere!

  • 1
    Good to know that this is normal
    – neelsg
    Jul 22, 2015 at 10:54
  • 3
    +1, this is very common. The main variation is which number is missing (which was different for each of my three kids)!
    – Acire
    Jul 22, 2015 at 11:25
  • 1
    Yep. 14 for my oldest.
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2015 at 14:00
  • 1
    Yep, my 4 year old does similar stuff.
    – Dustybin80
    Jul 22, 2015 at 14:47
  • 1
    I actually remember skipping 15 for some reason. I don't have many memories of that time, but that's one of them. Yet I can do normal math now. Jul 22, 2015 at 16:01

I'm not a child psychologist, but I've also observed this as common behavior, and my intuition is that it comes from learning the numbers as a sequence, not as having actual intrinsic meaning. I've been trying to get my kids to remember the sequence of stops on the subway line we live on for years, and there's a couple they almost always skip — mostly because we rarely stop there. (The one with the ice cream shop, they remember....)

So, first, I agree with the others that it's nothing to worry about. And, second, I'd concentrate on developing number sense — the intuitive knowledge of the real-world meaning of the terms. Don't just count, count actual things. Work on basic addition and subtraction problems (crucially, using counting to get from one to the other, rather than memorizing as "math facts"). That's advanced for a three-year old, so don't expect her to become a wiz at arithmetic instantly, but make a game of it. There are plenty of opportunities in a three-year-old's world for this.

The child development tracker site run by PBS has this note on three-year-olds and counting:

While some children are still learning how to verbally count by ones in the correct order up to "three," the average child can count up to "five." Some three-year-olds will also be able to verbally count by ones up to "ten," and possibly beyond, but not necessarily in the correct order. A very few children will be able to use the "teen" counting pattern to count up to "twenty."

and for age four:

While some children at the beginning of this year are still learning how to verbally count by ones in the correct order up to "five," the average child can count up to "ten," and possibly beyond, but not necessarily in the correct order.

So, I'd definitely relax — but I do definitely recommend keeping at real-world math games as the opportunity presents.


I wouldn't worry about it too much. Certainly don't make your child feel bad/stressed about it. As James said, "look for opportunities to count up to that 'missing' number". Here's something I've tried:

Play a game where the tickle monster will be hiding/waiting until it hears a number. The exchange goes like this (say the troublesome number is 12):

  • Me: Uh-oh! I think there's a tickle monster. He's hiding until you count to 5.
  • Child: 1, 2, 3, 4, ..... 5!
  • Tickle tickle tickle!
  • Me: OK, now he's hiding until 9!
  • Child: 6, 7, 8, (around 8 I start to make a "tickle monster" face) ... 9!
  • Tickle tickle tickle!

I just choose random numbers, and don't choose the troublesome number every time. Only do it if it's fun, of course.


Have her count on her fingers -- hold one finger up, say "one", hold an additional finger up, say "two", etc.

If she skips a number, then she will notice that she ends up saying "ten" when she is still not holding all her fingers up.

This makes the number tangible. It is no longer an arbitrary part of a sequence, but a part of a whole. And when she is still holding a finger down after counting to 10, it is concretely evident that a part is missing from that whole.

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