Children are so smart. I remember right at 15 months or earlier they would grab the larger slice of the mango or when we used to go for a walk my husband and I would hold baby and we would count one, two and on three lift baby and carry her for a few paces. After the first few times right on three, the legs would fold up. Math skills were already taking shape. So for baby number two we had all the experience and started early.
Whenever we narrated the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, our voices went loud for daddy bear, soft for mummy bear and squeaky for baby bear. How we loved to watch our little one’s eyes light up when we talked about ‘the big bowl’, ‘the medium-size bowl’ and ‘the little bowl’! At meal times we had, “Look mama I too have a small bowl.”
We watched the changing expressions as we spoke of, the ‘hard bed’, the ‘not so hard bed’ and the ‘soft bed’.
That was the beginning of the development of math skills. The children compare size, hardness and numbers. They learn that when there is porridge in three bowls if a fourth (Goldilocks) eats from one of these three bowls someone (baby bear) has to go hungry.
Children start learning these skills from birth. Every day we encourage our children to count:
Ready, 1one, two, three, run!
We count: Fingers and toes, the wheels on the cars, the number of sweets he/she eats.
We recognise shapes: The round clock, the small phone or the square box.
Now that your child is about three introduce new terms in his/her vocabulary. Let your child understand these terms through simple activities, songs and stories.
Use size words: Like big, small and medium when sorting clothes or socks or shoes.
Big and small (size): The watermelon is big, the apple is small (don’t use bigger or smaller just yet). Arrange toys in a line from big to small.
High and low (height): Stand on your toes reach up high, bend down low touch your toes.
Fast and slow (speed): How fast the dog runs, how slow the tortoise goes.
Close and far (distance): Give me the toy that is close to you, point to the car that is far away.
Before and after (order): Before you eat wash your hands, wipe your hands on the towel after you wash them.
Make them part of your vocabulary and play games. Encourage your little one to use these words by asking leading questions.
Which mug do you want the big one or the small one?
Do you want the flower that is high up on the tree or the one that is low near the ground?
Group things together:Like toys with wheels and toys without wheels or fruits that are red and those that are not or your toys and your brother’s toys
Use words to describe spatial concepts: Jump over the blue mat, hide under the bed, stand next to your brother, pour water into the cup, keep your muddy shoes out of the house.
Addition: Add two more bits of mango for you.
Subtraction: Give papa a few of your blocks to play with.
Division: Make equal shares of the mango slices.
Make counting part of your child’s everyday life. Count the trees, the shops, the birds
Encourage your child to describe what he/she sees in math terms. Point out things that come in a series: First is Kadam Auntie’s house, then the Naik’s, next the Pinto’s and then ours.
Count the steps from one door or gate to the next.
Use a growth chart to mark your child’s growth.
Involve your child in cooking, measuring in teaspoons and cups, stirring and adding.
Pouring water into bottles seeing which has less and which has more.
Laying the table: One plate for baby, one plate for sister, one plate for grandpa, one plate for mummy and one plate for papa. Purposely place one plate or spoon less or more so your little one recognises this.
Another fun activity can be sorting GEMS in bowls according to colour.
Phew you must be buzzing with ideas by now and ready to start.
(Writer is a volunteer in local schools and
a trustee with Sethu)