Roland loves counting and has for a very long time. I would say that when he was just over 2 he could count to ten, by rote as well as one to one correspondence, which means he can count out loud to ten as well as count up to ten objects. He learnt to count because he wanted to and was very interested in it, and we just went along with what he loved to do.
Today we were sitting out the front counting rocks, as you do, and I realised that at almost 3 he can count up to thirty! Well, almost. Occasionally the numbers get a little mixed up but the fact that he understands ‘teens’ then ’20’s’ then ’30’s’ is pretty clever! I thought why not share the ways we have included his love to count so that you too can begin including my counting tips with your little ones too as well as take the opportunity to talk about learning in general.
So firstly, I have realised I seem to count everything in my conversations with him. So when I’m handing out strawberries or toys I count as I pass them to him. For example he might say, “mummy, Roland wants strawberries, please mummy”, And I will reply by getting the strawberries and saying, “here you go buddy, one, two, three, eat those and then I can get you some more”.
Or walking up or down steps, I count them too which reminds me that there are many natural ways to include counting. Some are, while handing you pegs at the clothes line, while driving past cars, while cooking dinner (counting vegetables as you chop them, or sausages as you put them in the pan), while dropping toys in the bath or packing them away or even just the toys they happen to be playing with.
I personally believe that counting, along with colours and shapes are learnt naturally sometime before 6, or their first year of being in school. Learning these concepts is like any other type of learning where they need to be interested and willing to learn, and learning needs to be fun and stress free. Learning is actually a learnt skill which seems strange but fostering a love of learning and an inquisitive nature is far more important than making sure they know shapes, colours and numbers as a love of learning will see them through many years of school and beyond.
Learning and the love of it starts as a little baby, and you may not realise it but your baby is constantly demanding information from you and could be so subtle that neither of you realise. An example is when they are taking note of your body language around people they don’t know, or listening to the tone and pitch of your voice when you talk, all subtle ways that your baby is learning and you are teaching them about the world around them.
As they get older the demand for information becomes way more obvious, and how you respond to this demand is how you foster the love of learning. By encouraging them to try something new, listening and giving answers, exploring together and allowing them to sometimes fail is how they discover that learning is fun, sometimes hard, but enjoyable in the end when the knowledge or skill is learnt and then used.
Open ended questions are important, and are another way to encourage learning. Sometimes they might know the answers already or know how to find the answers themselves so the best thing to do, is answer their questions with a question. So when Roland asks me, “Where is the plane going mummy”, I reply with, “I’m not sure, where do you think it is going”? His answer is usually interesting, like the shops, or factual like “to land” and as he gets older I will extend this to show him how to find out the real answer for himself.
Learning something new should always be fun when children are young and should always feel like play to them. Without even knowing it you are teaching your little one every thing they need to know to go on and be a successful learner, and it’s important to remember that all children are different and learn things at different times.
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