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Early Numeracy: A Guide for Parents

Updated on January 26, 2012

It's not just about numbers

The idea of mathematics for pre-school children can seem a bit daunting. However, at this age a lot of maths is about understanding ideas such as size, shape and pattern - things that most adults would not think of as maths at all. If your child gains an early understanding of these concepts, then this can give him or her a flying start with number work.


Give your child opportunities to notice and recognize the different shapes around them. Use the proper names when talking to children about 3D shapes and encourage them to find things in the house with the same shape. Look at road signs and discuss the different 2D shapes you see.


Children enjoy counting real objects.

Counting the stairs as you take your child up to bed each night; count buttons on clothes; count the number of apples into a shopping bag; count 'pennies' in a money box and save up to buy something.

Make up little games and ask your children to fetch 3 books, 4 spoons or do 5 claps, 2 jumps etc.

Draw children's attention to numbers in everyday life. Look for numbers on cars, busses, clocks, houses, telephones. Show your child to write number in a tray of sand or salt.

Counting Rhymes

Recite counting rhymes such as '1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive' and read counting books.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive

6, 7, 8, 9, 10, then I let it go again

Why did you let it go?

Because it bit my finger so,

Which finger did it bite?

This little finger on the right.


Helping to lay the table encourages children to notice pattern -- 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 plate in each place.

Let your child use beads and cotton reels or pasta tubes for threading. Encourage 'repeating pattern' using 2 colours i. e. blue/green along the string.


Playing matching games with pairs of socks, shoes, gloves and picture cards can be fun. The ability to match lids to pans and tops to bottles is useful too.

Talking with your child while doing an activity will help him/her develop a vocabulary of words which describe positions, e.g. front, back, down, over, under.

Use words such as big, little; long, short, heavy, light; to describe items when you are shopping for food or clothes.


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    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 6 years ago from United States

      Simple and easy tips to help little ones count. Thanks for sharing!