Teaching your preschooler numbers: a simple guide for parents
We've including plenty of tips and fun ideas in this article.
Learning numbers is your little preschooler’s first big step towards being confident in maths. At this age, your child certainly shouldn’t be pushed to study mathematics, but it’s more about teaching him fun ways of number recognition and counting.
A lot of parents these days use flash cards in an attempt to kickstart their kids’ knowledge of numbers. But experts say this method might not be effective, as it is devoid of meaning for your little one.
Grace Davila Coates, Program Director of Family Math (Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley) and co-author of Family Math for Young Children explains:
“Many three-year-olds may be able to identify a 3, but they don’t understand what 3 means. It’s important for parents to understand the difference between conceptual learning and skill development.
“Instead of flashcards, look for teachable moments, count things that are familiar to the child as she plays or helps you with simple chores. Counting socks, toy cars, or other toys will maintain her attention and have more meaning for her. Play is learning for three and four-year olds. Follow their interests and create environments that encourage creativity and exploration.”
We love the idea of learning through play and fun and encouraging proper understanding of concepts right from the start. So mums and dads, try these easy as 1-2-3 methods at home with your tots and watch their number skills blossom!
Teaching your preschooler how to count is the first basic maths skill you can guide them in at home. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Songs: Preschoolers love singing and reciting, so use this to teach them numbers. Sing songs that including counting, such as One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Once I Caught a Fish Alive; This Old Man; Five Little Ducks; One, Two, Buckle My Shoe; Ten Green Bottles.
- Poems: These are another cute and fun way to teach your little ones basic counting skills. Some examples include: One Potato, Two Potatoes; Five Fat Sausages; One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Five Little Monkeys.
- Books: Go on a fun trip to the library with your little one. Look for books that teach preschoolers how to count such as these classics and you’ll be sure to find your favourite soon. Here are some of our favourites for you to choose from: Olivia Counts; Click, Clack, Splish, Splash; How Do Dinosaurs Count To Ten?; The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Number recognition is the next math skill appropriate for preschoolers, and is the ability to visually recognize and name numbers.
Here are ways to practise this skill with your child:
- Go to town with showing and naming numbers! When out and about, show you preschooler numbers on houses, street signs and building. At home, point out and name the numbers on the clock and the phone.
- Buy two packs of wooden or plastic cut-out numbers and play a game with your little one where he matched pairs of the same number. Also encourage him to put one set in order.
- Encourage sensory play. Cut out number shapes from sandpaper and gently trace your little one’s fingers along the number, speaking out the name of the number while you do it. You could also do the same with a stick in a sandpit or on the beach.
- Ask “how many?” often. “How many eyes do you have?”; “How many wheels does this car have?” and so on.
This refers to the matching up of an object to its corresponding written or verbal number. Do keep in mind that it can take months for a preschooler to master this skill, so patience is key!
Here are some ideas for you to try out with your little one:
What you need: toy rubber ducks, a dice, a shallow bowl of water.
This is such a fun game for preschoolers and brings together all the counting skills he has learned up to now. Start by reading a book or singing a song about ducks, such as Eric Carle’s Ten Little Rubber Ducks, or the song, Five Little Ducks.
Next, place a shallow bowl of water on a table. Ask your little one to roll the dice and count the dots. Then, he places the corresponding number of ducks in the ‘pond’.
This activity is as simple as counting everything as you go through your daily routine. with your child, count the steps as you go up and down, count the number of blocks you put in a box, how many times the phone rings before you answer it and so on.
What you need: A muffin tin (or empty egg carton), large buttons.
First, number the bottoms of each muffin space with a permanent marker. Next, give your child a number and ask him to place the correct number of buttons in the corresponding muffin tin space.
Parents, what is important to keep in mind is that these activities need to be made as fun as possible so your child develops and retains an interest in learning.
For preschoolers, learning is most effective through play, so keep it enjoyable and give your tot plenty of praise and laughs in the process. By the time he is ready to move on to more ‘advanced’ maths skills, you can be sure he will do it with pleasure!
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