Counting is a Foundation of Learning
Babies begin to learn counting and comparisons in the first year of life, to help make sense of the world. In the first five years, important developmental milestones involving counting skills can impact everything from language skills and creative problem-solving to music and visual arts. What are some of those milestones? How can we encourage curiosity and counting skills that are an important foundation of learning learning? Here are some ideas:
Ages 0–1: Reciting nursery rhymes or singing songs with repeating lines (such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”) teaches your infant about patterns and introduces the words for numbers. You can even try asking your baby for two of something, or just one. Be sure to reinforce their learning with praise when they succeed — if you teach them, many babies know the difference between one and two by age 1! Just talking to your baby about the world around them — “You have two crackers” or “that building is tall!” — teaches the foundation for future learning.
Ages 1–2: From 12 to 24 months, your child’s understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) concepts grows significantly. Point out shapes, such as the circles in car wheels or triangles on signs, and ask your toddler if they can find another one. Talk about comparisons between things — bigger and smaller, near and far, more and less, inside and outside — and encourage them to make their own comparisons. Sorting is also a great start to STEAM development — point out similar things to your toddler and ask if they can see two rocks that look the same, or find three flowers that are similar.
Ages 3–5: As your preschooler’s understanding of numbers, shapes and patterns expands, they will begin to be able to do simple addition and subtraction. Build your preschooler’s counting skills at mealtimes — “You have three carrots. How many will you have if you eat one?” — or ask your child to help count/ measure ingredients for a recipe (see the “Recipes to Count On” in this Parenting Guide!) Play can also encourage counting skills — Dancing the Hokey Pokey or playing Simon Says teaches the difference between right and left, hopscotch reinforces number recognition and playing simple card games like “Go Fish” or “Concentration” helps teach numbers and patterns.