From a very early age I spent a couple of minutes most days teaching my baby to count. That’s all, just a couple of minutes.
So far it has worked well – my daughter loves numbers and I’m pretty confident she’ll be fine with math as the years go by.
If you’re interested in doing the same, here’s what I did; (as you’ll see it’s pretty rudimentary):
1. Counting to 5 with my fingers
Almost from birth I’d spend a few seconds counting to 5 and raising each finger as I said the number. Often I’d sing the numbers to the tune of some long forgotten song.
I’m a terrible singer but my daughter loved it. She’d smile and giggle and it was even effective in soothing her when crying.
Of course, for what seemed like a geological epoch she showed no sign whatsoever she was taking it in – but I persisted anyway.
We have a play mat full of pictures, letters and numbers. As our baby grew she started pointing to things and we’d say what they were.
Most days she’d spend 2 or 3 minutes doing this; she loved it – it was always unprompted and she was always clearly having fun.
Months went by. More months went by. She gave no indication that anything to do with numbers had sunk in. This didn’t worry me – it was all just fun. Then one day she pointed to number 4 and said “four” in a loud, clear voice. My jaw hit the floor.
3. Counting everyday objects
If you’re on the lookout there are loads of opportunities to incorporate numbers into routine activities: counting pieces of food on a plate, bananas in a bunch, toys, people in a photo, fingers and toes, even the number of blinds on a window – the list is endless.
My favorite was counting the four buttons of her pajama top as I did it up. She began to look forward to this and would watch closely and smile.
Again, although there were no outward signs, it was all sinking in.
4. Books and videos
In addition to wonderful story books like The Gruffalo and Where is the Green Sheep? make sure you have a few books on numbers. My favorites are Five Little Ducks and My Very First Book of Numbers.
The occasional counting video is great too – when you’re feeling lazy or need to calm your baby down, watching one on your phone is a nice alternative to a cartoon.
5. Touching fingers
As my daughter became more alert, she started to mimic how I pointed with my index finger when counting. So I began counting the fingers on one hand and letting her point to each one.
Now, naturally she didn’t go close to getting it right and was pointing to fingers at random and often to the same one several times. But this didn’t matter – and over time she got better and better at it, as she began to master the important skill of one-to-one correspondence.
At the time of writing my daughter is almost able to count to 4. Her progress in recent weeks has appeared to accelerate rapidly – and she’s still having as much fun as ever. And it’s still something we only spend a few minutes on each day.
The thing I’m really looking forward to introducing her to is board games and I think the first one will be Snakes and Ladders. I will be super cautious about the pieces and the dice as they are choking hazards and I’ll remain patient as I’m sure it will be months before she really understands.
But at some point in the not too distant future, I expect that as a family we will be able to have loads of fun with lots of different counting board games.
Well there it is. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes!