GFM SEPTEMBER 2015
Fun ways to get your preschooler off to a good mathematical start
If you have a preschooler, you may already have her education planned and her school place fixed. You probably have high hopes for her academic success, too, so how about helping her on her way with a little light teaching at home? Introducing numbers and counting, for instance, will stand her in great stead for that thorny subject of mathematics.
Below you’ll find countless ways to get your toddler counting while simultaneously developing the precious bond between the two of you. (For simplicity, the child is referred to as a girl here, but boys will benefit equally from these games.)
Remember that your role is that of parent, rather than teacher. Present your teaching focus as lightly and casually as possible, wrapped up in a game or other matter. “Hey, how about a game of hide and seek. Let’s count to ten before anyone can get to looking okay?” If your child is not interested in the concepts you are presenting, don’t force them. Her busy mind may be absorbed in other discoveries at the time, though she has probably picked up more than she lets on.
Counting with clothes
Count with your child while helping her to dress. Ask how many sleeves her shirt has. One for each arm? So that’s one, two, you can tell her. Now ask how many buttons, and count them together.
Counting at the table
Count the number of place mats, spoons, tumblers or serviettes. How many people are sitting round the table? Say their names and count them together.
Counting on the clock
Using a large clock with clearly presented numbers, point to the digit representing the current time, and say it together. Count to the number on fingers. Show her how to trace or copy its written shape with her finger. Pick an hour that’s relevant to her daily life, such as breakfast or bedtime, and point out that number on the clock each time the event comes round. If she is not ready for time concepts, however, leave this aside for now.
Counting round the house
Count chairs, windows, books, crayons and other familiar items. When hanging out the washing, ask her to find two, three, or four clothespins for you. How many stairs or steps are there to climb in your home?
Counting birthday candles
Help your youngster count the candles on her birthday cake, and on those of siblings and other family members. Count the cards along the window sill. Does hers have a number on it? What could it be?
In your garden or local park, count trees, shrubs, or flowers. You could even count the petals on a single flower. Perhaps you could also count birds on the bird table, fish in the pond, or chairs on the patio. How many jumps, hops, or giant steps can she do? When walking down the road, count street lamps, front doors, or cars. Look at the numbers on those doors, too. Stop to look at the numbers on a vehicle’s registration plate, identifying some together.
Play games with toys that can be counted, examples being toy vehicles, animals, counters, or marbles. Play shops, counting simple pretend money. Coins could be represented by buttons, counters, pebbles, grapes, or large pasta shapes.
Sing songs together that include numbers, such as the old nursery rhyme, “One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive.” Count the numbers on your fingers, and chant them together.
Counting at bedtime
Count up teddies or dolls. How many will your child allow in her bed tonight? After brushing her teeth, count them up together. Is there a new one on the way? Ask how many teeth she will have when this latest one comes through. How many good night kisses will you give each other tonight? Count as you kiss.
Your light-touch input at this early stage will ensure a head start for your child at school. You could help her even further by introducing letters and words, too. This could be done in much the same way, through simple, ordinary activities.