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Teach Your Toddler to Count

If you have a preschool-age child, you may already have their education planned and their school place fixed. You probably have high hopes for their academic success too, so how about helping them on their way with a little light teaching at home?

Introducing numbers and counting will stand them in great stead for that thorny subject called mathematics. Below you’ll find countless ways to get your toddler counting while simultaneously developing the precious bond between you.

Quick tip

Remember that your role is that of a parent rather than a teacher. Present your teaching focus as lightly and casually as possible, wrapped up in a game or other matter. If your child is not interested in the concepts you are presenting, don’t force them. Their busy minds may be absorbed in other discoveries at the time, though they have probably picked up more than they let on.

Counting with clothes

Count with your child while helping them to dress. Ask how many sleeves their shirt has. One for each arm? So that’s one, two, you can tell them. Now ask how many buttons the shirt has and count them together as you do them up.

Counting at the table

Count the number of placemats, spoons, tumblers, or serviettes. How many people are sitting around 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 them how to trace or copy its written shape with their finger. Pick an hour that’s relevant to their daily life, such as breakfast or bedtime, and point out that number on the clock each time the event comes round. If they are not ready for time concepts, however, leave this aside for now.

Counting around the house

Count chairs, windows, books, crayons, and other familiar items. When pegging out the washing, ask them to find two, three, or four pegs for you. How many stairs or steps are there to climb in your home?

Counting birthday candles

Help your youngster count the candles on their birthday cake, and on those of siblings and other family members. Count the cards along the window sill. Does theirs have a number on it? What could it be?

Counting outside

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 they 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.

Counting toys

Play games with toys that can be counted, examples being toy vehicles, animals, counters or marbles. Play “shop,” counting simple pretend money. Coins could be represented by buttons, counters, pebbles, grapes or large pasta shapes.

Counting songs

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, dolls or cars. How many will your child allow in their bed tonight? After brushing their teeth, count them up together. Is there a new one on the way? Ask how many teeth they 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 them even further by introducing letters and words as well. This could be done in much the same way, through simple, everyday activities, enriching your rapport even more in the process.
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