During the first years of life, children learn at an amazing rate. They make new discoveries every day, and the foundation is formed for a lifetime of learning.
One very important skill for children to develop is numeracy, or the ability to understand and use numbers and mathematics in everyday life. There are many ways to help build a solid foundation in numeracy, long before a child learns to add and multiply.
The best way for your child to learn is through play. You can help her build these beginning numeracy skills in many fun ways.
Counting. There is no end to the things you can count with your child. When cuddling with your baby, count five toes or five fingers. Count two arms going into a sweater. Repeat songs or stories that have number or counting themes. Count backwards from 10 with your preschooler when it is time to pull the plug at bath time. Count toys as you put them away, or items as you put them in the grocery cart.
Shape recognition. Put together simple shape puzzles with your child. Talk about shapes you see in books, or draw shapes together. Use shape cookie cutters to trace on paper or cut play dough. Look for shapes all around you.
Matching and sorting. When doing laundry, ask your child to find matching pairs of socks, or to put all the face cloths together. Sort blocks by colour, shape or size. Stack books with the largest at the bottom and the smallest on top.
Measuring. Let your child help with baking by filling measuring cups and spoons. These are also great toys for the bathtub or sandbox. Lay a book on the floor and see how many square blocks can be lined up beside it. Have your child stand against the wall to measure how tall he is.
Comparison. When you are putting on your shoes to go out, point out that yours are larger than your child’s. Compare the size of your hand to hers. Make two piles of toys, one twice as large, and talk about the difference. Cut a banana into an even number of slices so you each have the same amount on your plate.
Numeracy language. When playing with your child, use a variety of "math" words to help him understand and be able to express different numeracy concepts. For example: big or small, more or less, heavy or light, full or empty, first or second.
Every day, you can do many things to help boost your child’s numeracy skills. As she grows she can build on this solid foundation of learning, both in school and in life.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers
parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon