Want to lay the foundations of early numeracy but not sure where to start?
We've got your covered with some simple and easy to implement ideas!
Firstly, look around your every day life. Narration is a really powerful tool. When you're cutting up a snack you can count the apple slices, you can talk about how one apple is bigger and one is smaller. All these little points of exposure really add up and help children learn about the world around them and lay the foundations for implementing these skills themselves.
Below I've listed key concepts for children to explore and given examples of activities they can do to explore each concept.
Beginning to count
There's a few important things going on here of course learning the words and order of numbers - being able to say one, two, three is import but the more important step is something called one-to-one correspondence.
This simply means that children understand that each of those words corresponds to one object. So as they count "one" they tap one block, as they count "two" they tap one block, and so on. This can be hard for little ones to learn and will take a while so demonstrate, practice, patience, keep things simple and most importantly, fun!
The last stage will be learning to recognise numerals, there's so many fun and easy ways to explore this when they're ready for it.
- Counting aloud - count as you go down the stairs or trees you walk by. Count blocks as you stack them or toy cars as you drive them. This is a really good one to just practice in day-to-day life.
- One-to-one correspondence - Loose parts are so great for this as children can physically move them from one pile to another which can really help develop this skill, adding blocks to a pile one a time is another good game, transferring pom-poms from one bowl to another (you can add tongs to make this harder if that suits your child) anything that gets them to slow down and move objects one at a time is good for developing this skill.
This Numbers Board had dimples to put balls in it so it is self-correcting. This means children can work out for themselves the right amount of balls to match the numerals.
- Numerals - Point them out in real life on a walk on letter boxes or street signs. Number puzzles like this one, or numeral tracing boards like this Magnatab or this wooden board can be great for numeral recognition. You can even bury these Tactile Pebbles or Wooden Number Dots in some sensory play and dig them up or use them for a treasure hunt around your home. Remember to keep it fun and engaging!
Learning about "same" and "different"
Learning to sort and categorise is another key early numeracy skill. This skill of classifying items by similar attributes is an important early problem solving skill and lays the groundwork for a lot of other more complex skills to come like pattern-making.
- Get the loose parts out again for grouping by shape or colour. Depending on your child's age the Nins, Rings and Coins set or the Grapat Mandala range is great. We also have a whole blog on Colour Matching Using Open-Ended Pieces where you can find some more activity ideas for classifying.
- For real life activities they can group foods on their plate or practice tidying up their toys and working out where to put them.
Understanding more or less
The concept of more or less is exactly as it sounds. It's simply understanding how to compare two groups of items and knowing which group has more items and which group has less.
- A good beginner activity is to stack blocks or coins from the Nins, Rings and Coins set to stack visually see which stack has less and which has more.
- For an older child the Treasures from Jennifer Hundreds Board is a good resource to use. You could do a graphic activity (you can go through a catalogue or roll a dice and make a bar graph) then discuss which column has the "most" which has the "least"
Graphing is an excellent way for children to visualise different amounts and talk about more or less.
- The Treasures from Jennifer Hundreds Board also has a Symbols Coin Set you can purchase which has "less than" and "more than" symbols you can use for older children once they've grasped the concept you can represent it with numerals, but make sure this is a final step once they understand the more concrete idea with loose parts or manipulatives.
Pattern-making can be so fun and also meditative. You can make patterns for your child to follow and they will enjoy making patterns for you to replicate as well. The ability to recognise and replicate patterns is a powerful skill that helps with problem-solving, logical connections and reasoning as they get older.
- Any loose parts will work for pattern making. Start with a simple ABAB pattern and then you can make it more complicated for example - ABBABB, ABCABC.
- Our favourite resources for patterns are Grapat Mandalas, Grimm's Acrylic Glitter Stones, Lucite Cubes and the Treasures from Jennifer Hundreds Board with Felt Pom-poms
Pattern making is fun and easy! Make patterns for your child to complete and let them make patterns for you to complete.
Shapes are so fun to explore and learn. Talk about the amount of sides and points they have to help children understand that this is how you classify shapes.
- Real world exploration is easy for this as we can point to shapes around us in the shops, our home or even walking down the street!
- Simple shape puzzles or shape sorters are great for learning shapes
- You can draw shapes on paper and tape them to the floor or stairs and throw sandbags at shapes, this is especially good for children that enjoy movement in their learning.
- Get out the Kitpas and practice drawing shapes, you can draw dots and have your child connect them
- Draw shapes on a chalk board and call out the names of them and have your child use a spray bottle to spray the shapes away
Comparing things that are smaller and larger is another great categorisation skill for kids to work on. Start with two objects then work with more objects slowly and get them to put them in order from smallest to largest.
- Some great resources to help with this are: Stacking Bowls or Stacking Boxes, Dimpl Stack, Stacking Conical Tower, Spin Again
- You can also use your blocks by making stacks with the cubes or the individual blocks in the sets like the Large Stepped Pyramid or Large Stepped Counting Blocks would be perfect
You can use any resources you have that come in varying sizes to work on this skill. Simply talk through which is bigger and smaller. You can add movement by spreading them across the room or even hide them and find them and then put them in the right size order.
For older children you could then add numerals and order them from smallest to largest. These Wooden Number Dots would be perfect for this.
I hope this gives you some great ideas to feel empowered exploring numeracy with your little ones, enjoy!