My friend was trying to teach her toddler to count that day as they were going up the stairs together. The little one was trying very hard to be a ‘big boy’, so he told his mum “I big boy! I count! 1,2,4,5,8,8,10!” Sounds familiar to anyone?
Young children initially learn to “count” 1-10 by rote memory. They may not really understand the concept of counting yet, they may skip around as they count (as in the above example). Don’t worry about his mistake, he’s trying to learn the correct names of the numbers as he recites them. As they memorise the sequence, they begin to relate to the actual quantity of objects. E.g. one spoon, two spoons, three spoons.
As they grow, your child begins to learn more advanced skills related to counting. E.g.
- To recognise numbers in both digit and word forms.
- Know and memorise the sequence of 1 – 10 regardless of which number they start on
- Later, children will start to understand the idea of adding more objects, increasing the number counted.
- Early mathematical concepts such as ‘more, less, before, after, smaller number vs bigger number’
- Conservation of quantity - your child realises that the number of objects in a set stays the same no matter how you arrange it unless any are added or removed
- Cardinality – This is where the child counts a collection of objects and knows that the last number mentioned is the amount of that collection. E.g. ‘1,2,3,4,5’ – 5 bananas!
- Counting non-visible objects - your child will realise they can count things they can't touch or even see - such as songs, story, dreams etc.
We suggest using concrete materials that children can manipulate to assist in developing early numeracy skills. More on that in our next blog: Learning to Count Part 2