Teach Your Toddler to Count

If you have a preschool-age child, 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 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 you.

Quick tip

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. 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 the shirt has and count them together as you do them up.

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 pegging out the washing, ask her 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 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?

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 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.

Counting toys

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.

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 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 as well. This could be done in much the same way, through simple, everyday activities, enriching your rapport even more in the process.