Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ten Activities To Do With A Toddler Who Can Count

Kids generally get the hang of counting some time between the age of 2 and 4 – this means proper counting, not just the ability to recite numbers in the counting order.  It means if you asked your child to bring you 6 objects, they could do it (provided they were inclined to, of course!)  I did a blog post here about all the things a child has to get their head around before they can really count.

If your child gets the hang of the counting thing roundabout 4yo, they may well like to start doing things like workbooks straight away.  But if they are only a toddler, these kind of activities will be completely unsuitable.

If you have a toddler who can count and are wondering what number activities to do next, here are some ideas:

Abacus - we got an affordable and durable abacus through RightStart Mathematics  (we actually got the abacus as a gift with the maths games kit for $50, but the abacus by itself is $15 and after 6 months is still in great condition).  It has 10 rows of 10s grouped into 5s by colour.  Initially she liked just sliding the beads about, but then she liked to practice sliding 2 or 3 or 10 at a time.  It was easy for her to see the number 10 at a glance, and for us to count by 10s to 100.  I wrote the numbers 10, 20, 30… down to 100 down the side of the abacus so she could start to associate these with the quantities.  We showed different people’s ages on the abacus.  The great thing about the abacus over other place value and counting toys like Montessori beads or MAB blocks is that: a) it’s way cheaper, and b) you don’t have small parts you can lose. 

Reading Letterboxes - on walks we had always stopped to spot numbers on letterboxes.  Now we started to do double digit numbers.  We’d identify which number was in the tens place and which was in the ones place, ask ‘what are 3 tens called?’, then put it together… ‘ah, so this must be thirty…five!’  There are about 15 double digit letter boxes between our house and the playground, so this was a perfect length activity for a toddler.  Another favourite ‘found numbers’ game was reading all the table number signs at cafes, and we spotted speed signs on a long bus ride.

Numbers and Geometry - she didn’t show any interest in fractions until Christmas, when Santa brought her a bunch of puzzles, including this fraction puzzle…  
We’ve talked through how the bottom number is the number of pieces the circle is divided into, and the top number says this is just one piece.  I then started talking about halves, quarters, thirds, fifths etc as I cut up her food and she has taken to this very keenly, and now likes to request how many pieces her food is cut into ‘cut it into fifths!’  We also count the sides and corners of shapes.

Finger Counting - It is a real challenge for toddlers to learn how to hold some fingers up and keep others down.  1 and 5 are easy, 2 is not too hard, but 3 and 4 are really tricky.  Learning how to do this provided hours of entertainment.  Now she likes to accompany saying any of the numbers 1 to 5 with a representation of the number on her fingers.  More recently she has become interested in holding up some combination of fingers on both hands and asking what that is.  Another good way of involving movement and counting is stomping or clapping numbers.  There is some evidence that finger counting spatially cements number concepts that form the basis for more advanced mental mathematics as the child grows older.

Numbers Songs and Rhymes - Five Little Ducks is a great one and can be acted out on your fingers.  My sister also got Bethany a mummy duck puppet with five baby duck finger puppets which were a lot of fun.  Beyond 5 numbers, Yellow Is The Sun teaches the numbers from 6-10 as 5 + 1, 5 + 2 etc.  

The song is supposed to go with the abacus but it’s easy to do on your fingers too.  Alice the Camel counts backwards from 10.   1-2 Buckle My Shoe emphasises counting in groups of two.  I also made up derivative rhymes like: ‘2-4-6-8, Hurry Hurry Don’t Be Late, 12-14-16-18, Hurry Now Don’t Keep Us Waiting’.

Sorting - Sorting objects into groups is the precursor to being able to group numbers.  Bethany mostly likes to sort by colour but will sort by shape if encouraged.  I bought a bunch of craft supplies, including coloured little pom-poms and buttons, and gave her different coloured containers to sort them into.

Number line - It is easy to make a toddler sized number line on the ground using pavement chalk.  You can hop along the numbers, saying them as you go, or collect numbers of objects that match with the numbers on the line.

Play shop - We set up a pretend shop where one person is the shop owner and the other is the customer.  Items are exchanged for tokens which are counted out (tan bark or gumnuts if you are in a playground).  Expect to always be required to hand over change, no matter if you paid exactly.

Play with coins - Bethany has always loved to play with the coins in my wallet, but now she is interested in the fact they have numbers on them, and sorting similar coins together.  We talk about what the numbers are called and how the gold coins are worth more than the silver ones.  She does not understand how to add up 50c and 20c, but she understands that if something costs 50c, she can pay for it with a 50c coin.

Clock games - A model clock where you can move the hands is great for learning the numbers 1 to 12.  Again, we got a bargain basement one through RightStart Mathematics, but you could easily make one yourself with some cardboard and a split pin.  Focus just on telling the time to the hour, including working out the hour if some of the numbers from the clock face are missing.  If you can remove the minute hand from the clock entirely, that is less confusing for a beginner.  Talk about the kinds of things that happen at different times of the day.  Compare an analog clock with a digital clock and explain how the numbers correspond.