You may have heard the phrase, “parents are their children’s first teachers.” It’s true! The things you teach your baby, toddler, or young child now will pave the way for their success in school and in life. One of the most important early skills you can teach your little one is how to count. Since you likely don’t remember learning to count yourself, you may wonder where to begin in imparting this skill to your child. Don’t worry! Learning to count is a basic skill that can be taught through daily interactions and activities that you and your child can enjoy together.
How Do Children Learn to Count?
Counting is one of the first cognitive skills children learn as they grow and develop, and it’s arguably one of the most important as well. Child development experts argue that children are born with an innate inclination to quantify things. That means that although they’re not born with the ability to count per se, they are born with the sense that objects come in certain quantities. This is the foundation babies draw from when learning how to count as toddlers and young children. Still, your child needs lots of instruction and encouragement from you in order to master the skill of counting.
Activities to Encourage Beginning Counting
Babies can learn to start counting small quantities as young as the age of two, and some begin to express interest in counting even before then, so it’s never too early to start teaching your child the basics. Plus, the earlier you start, the more comfortable your child will be with counting when it comes time to enroll in school, which could give him or her a competitive edge, paving the way for success in mathematics throughout primary and secondary school. In addition, promoting a love of numbers during your child’s developmental years can foster a desire to pursue lucrative careers in mathematics and computing later in life.
Many of the activities you’ll want to start with to introduce your young child to the concept of counting will involve modeling and repetition. Since counting is such a natural part of our everyday life, you should find it easy to find opportunities to practice counting with your child throughout the day. Here are some ideas:
Count During Snack Time
When giving your child a snack, count the number of pieces of food as you put them on his or her plate. Encourage your child to count with you.
Count During Bath Time
Place some toys in the bath tub with your child during bath time. Ask him or her how many toys are in the tub. Encourage your child to touch each object as he or she counts the toys.
As you’re taking a walk around the park or even your front yard, ask your child to count how many trees or flowers he or she sees along the way. This is a good activity as your child progresses past counting to the number 10.
Activities to Encourage Advanced Counting
It’s important to understand that just because children learn to recite a sequence of numbers doesn’t mean that they fully grasp the concept of counting. After all, repeating a series of numbers is just simple memorization. It’s like singing a familiar song or reciting a short nursery rhyme. Counting, on the other hand, is a higher order thinking skill that requires a greater understanding of beginning mathematical concepts. For example, in order to count proficiently, children need to understand that the quantity of items stays the same no matter how the objects are arranged. Children who memorize numbers in a series but lack an understanding of counting may think there are more items in small jar than in a large jar because the small jar is full, for instance.
Advanced counting also requires that children understand the principle of cardinality. Cardinality refers to the fact that the last number counted represents the number of objects in the group. For example, if there are four blocks in a stack, and your child counts them one by one, he or she will get to the number four and realize that there are four blocks in the stack. Below are some activities to promote cardinality and other advanced counting concepts:
- Give your child a handful of crayons and have him or her tell you how many there are. Have your child arrange the crayons in a pattern, and ask if the same amount of crayons are still there. Repeat for as many patterns as your child desires to make.
- Stack cups on a table and ask your child to count them. Now ask how many cups are on the table.
- Place the same number of jellybeans in different-sized containers. Have your child guess which container holds more jellybeans. Then, count the jellybeans together.
Parents have been teaching their kids the principles of counting for generations. Today’s parents have even more resources to use to help their young children master counting and other mathematical concepts, though. With BimiBoo, you can simply download counting apps to your iPad and introduce your child to engaging, colorful games that teach them the skills they need to count proficiently.