The Best Ways to Teach your children Numbers and Counting
When to Start?
There is no hard and fast rule, and it really should be when they become interested in numbers and counting things. Probably aged 2-3 is the most common age for this. You shouldn't try to force children to learn something when they are not interested, but encourage them when they are interested.
Learning to Say 1-2-3
Probably the first introduction to numbers for most children is learning to say 'one, two,three etc.' They may pick this up on their own, from nursery rhymes or other children, or through you saying it to them. You may find that from a very young age (soon after they start to talk) they can say the first few numbers in order, but at this point they won't understand what they mean. Don't worry about that, or try and explain it to early, it will come in time.
How Many? Learning to Count?
The next step is being able to count how many of a particular thing there are. There are lots of books, puzzles and games that all help with this (there are links to some of the best of these below), but I think the easiest way to start is with objects around the home. There is an element of exploration in this too which kids enjoy. The kitchen is a great place to start as there are multiples of lots of things. Say something like "lets see what we can find in here" and start pulling things out. You can count anything - spoons, mugs, jars, tomatoes, dried pasta. With each different thing, ask them what it is and if they don't know, tell them. This broadens their recognition of everyday objects and increases their vocabulary as well as helping with numbers. The other reason it is good doing it this way is they can pick up each object if they're small, or move along the line of larger objects, counting each one at a time and avoiding double counting which young children start off doing if objects are close together or jumbled up. Being able to separate out and distinguish separately between objects is a great advantage over counting things on the page of a book or on screen.
There is an inevitable progression with counting - start off with low numbers of things and work up to higher numbers (though until much later on there's no real need to go beyond 10). Take the opportunity throughout each day to spot things they can count rather than saying 'we're going to do counting now'.
Once they've mastered physical objects which they can move about, they will find it easier counting things in books or on screen which they can't move about. You can also move on to simple dice games, getting them to count the spots on the dice. They are bound to double count quite often, it is important to correct them, and count it out again with them, pointing out each one. Help them introduce a logical way of counting objects, like from right to left or up and down, one row, then another, that kind of thing.
Once they can say their numbers, and count objects, the final stage is to recognise numbers when they are written down. This is where books, games and jigsaws do help, because they can usually count the object, and then see the number digit appearing next to it. This provides a checking mechanism which, once they know their numbers, can be quite useful.
When you are out and about, round the house and going out, look out for numbers wherever you go, on signs, front doors, prices in shops and so on. Point out the numbers and say what they are, or ask them what number that is.
Another great way I found of helping my daughter learn her numbers was to buy a sticker album. I bought her a 'Disney Princess' sticker album, because she loves princesses! We would then buy a couple of packs of stickers every so often, and I would ask her what each of the numbers on the back were, then we had to find those numbers on the page. A lot of them are three digit numbers (there's about 400 stickers in the album) so I go three each digit in turn.
The most important thing is to enjoy the learning process, you as well as your child. Make up whatever games you can think of, make it fun, and they will learn quicker!
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