Babies and toddlers

Here are some great ideas that you can do to help your babies and toddlers develop great mathematical thinking from a really young age:

When they are really little:

  • When getting them dressed, count their fingers after you put their hand through a shirt to check if there are still five, then celebrate that there are still five
  • Play repetitive, anticipation games: round and round the garden (pausing slowly for one step, two steps), sneaking up and saying “boo”, clapping to music
  • One for me and one for you.

As toddlers:

  • Ask them to get out the cups and plates for afternoon tea without telling them how many are needed (only maximum of 3-4 people)
  • Ask them to get the right number of pegs when hanging out the washing (e.g. shirts need two, socks need one)
  • Talk about how things are similar and different (e.g. this one is pointy but this one is rounded), and classify the same group of objects in different ways (colours, shapes, “pointy”, “rough”…)
  • With two or three objects, move them around and ask how many there are now.  Keep experimenting until the child realises that moving the objects doesn’t make the number change – there are still the same amount.
  • Don’t always count things in a line or from left to right.  Try a circle or just a mixed up group.  Also, count mixed groups of objects (e.g. a block, a lego man and a ball) rather than always the same things.  Mix up the colours too.
  • Focus on understanding what changes a number and what doesn’t rather than on counting to ten or twenty.  Counting without understanding quantity is useless.
  • Give them different sized cups to play with in the bath instead of toys.  Pour water from one to the other to compare which has the most.
  • When building with Duplo, talk about the blocks as “a six block” or “an eight block”.  Experiment with ways to cover an eight block with other smaller blocks.
  • Play skittles (six plastic bottles works well).  Talk about how many you knocked down and how many are left to get.
  • Share groups of objects between multiple kids (fairly).
  • Use digital clocks (e.g. you can get up from your rest when the clock starts with a three, you need to get ready for your bath when the clock starts with a six).


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