a dozen activities to develop early number concepts

Exposure to numbers doesn't have to be formal and serious.  Even silly experiences can be full of learning!

Exposure to numbers doesn’t have to be formal and serious. Even silly experiences can be full of learning!

Learning about numbers is one of those foundational concepts, necessary for understanding so much about the world.  For this reason, we diligent parents are eager to ensure that our tykes are on-track for numeracy skills from the very start.  These ideas, for the crowd that isn’t quite ready to write numbers or study formal math, will build a foundation for later success–without the need for any formality or structure.

  1. Make counting a regular part of your life, from how many baby carrots your child wants for lunch to how many strokes it takes to mix your brownie batter. The more opportunities you take for counting (within reason, of course!) the more familiar your child becomes with numbers and their order.
  2. Master the “concept” of number. Talk about how many cups you’ve stacked, how many blocks are in a line. Help your child develop a mental image for each number—especially for 1-5.
  3. Compare groups of items. Line up all your red Hot Wheels and park the black ones in a row beneath them. Decide which group has more, and how many more there are.
  4. Have fun with simple word problems. “Look, you have five grapes left! How many will you have after you eat another one?” In this way, your children will learn that numbers and math help them to describe and understand their world.
  5. As your child ages, “their” number is infinitely special to them. On each child’s birthday, I make a sign saying, “[Kid] is [#] today! Happy birthday!” This sign starts prominently displayed in the kitchen, but after a week or so it moves to their bedroom, where it hangs all year. If nothing else, my kids master recognition of one number each year!
  6. Point out numbers in your child’s world. Count down that last minute on the timer until the cookies are done, talk about the price of items you’re buying at the store (as you point to the numbers on the price tag), inspect the page numbers of the books you read. Start to nurture familiarity with the written symbols we use for numbers.
  7. Post a number line or 100 chart for your child to ponder. Show them how it’s organized, and refer to it when numbers or comparisons arise. They may love to count while pointing to each number—but if they don’t, that’s fine, too!
  8. Combine an understanding of number order with some fine motor work: get simple dot-to-dot pages for your child to complete!
  9. When they’re interested, play a matching game. Place groups of objects on the floor, a different number of each. Give your child a set of number cards (marker on a blank index card or bit of scrap paper works great), and help them match each number to its corresponding group of objects.
  10. Here’s another matching game: Place the number cards on the floor, and see if your child can create an appropriate group of objects for each card.
  11. Using Uno cards or homemade number cards, have your child try to put the numbers in order. Be sure to reinforce the left-to-right order they’ll use for reading!
  12. Read fun number books. A search of your library’s catalog is sure to turn up at least a handful of colorful or silly counting books.
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One thought on “a dozen activities to develop early number concepts

  1. Pingback: 30 pre-reading activities for young children | butmostlymommy

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