I am not a professional or an educator. I am a mom. Putting aside all the other essentials for learning, there are two fundamental parts of teaching as a parent I have come to realise. If you want your child to learn and retain anything, you have to make it fun and repetition is key.
By how do you make it fun to learn to count? My children are different so I had to come up with different strategies for each one. Here are some ideas you can use which you come across everywhere:
- Counting stairs – I know there are exactly 16 stairs from the time we enter my daughter’s preschool to the time we arrive at her classroom. Every morning she likes to count them as we step on each one. They are not all at the same place so she also needs to remember the number we last counted. Even if your child doesn’t want to count themselves, you can count for them as the walk, or run, up the stairs. This also serves as a useful distraction if you have to walk up flights of stairs in buildings or shopping centres. My son would complain there were so many stairs so I challenged him to count them.
- Counting toys or parts of toys – My daughter is fantastic at making a mess in the playroom but not so amazing at packing away. She loves tipping over containers of cars, lego, building parts,marbles etc. After trying many strategies for tidying up including threats and bribery, we now turn it into a game often connected with counting ie. let’s count the cars as we pack them away? Can you put 10 pieces of Lego in the container? Who can pick up 5 green pieces first? It takes a bit longer to pack away sometimes but its less frustrating and more enjoyable for everyone involved
- Counting steps – We love to go walking and our children love the outdoor adventures. The difficulty arises when they get tired or don’t want to walk back. My son and I will come up with a certain amount of steps that need to be walked before we can stop for a rest, have a snack or allow his younger sister to go on dad’s shoulders. We don’t make it a huge number and often pick something random like 37 or 23. This works a lot on the beach as well when we count steps and then either stop to look for shells, play a bit in the sea or sit down for a snack.
- Counting food – In a home with more than 1 child, there are constantly fights about fairness. It is not uncommon for one of my children to count the amount of crumpets they have on their plate as well as the amount given to their sibling. This also works when children are being fussy eaters and you tell them they can have 5 or 10 more spoons or bites. Here you can count up or down.
- Counting race – It amazes me that irrespective of a child’s age, if you say “Can you do “xyz” by the time I count to 10 or 20, they will race off to do it. 17 is the magic number in our house. Can you get in the bath by the time I count to 17? Can you pick a bedtime story by the time I count to 12? Bet you can’t pick up your shoes by the time I count to 7? You can vary the speed of counting to fit the situation but this trick works 8 out of 10 times for me.
- Counting for Mom – there are often times when my children are asking, or nagging, for something and I am in the middle of finishing off meal prep or a work document or in the loo.(Why do they always have “emergencies” when Mom is in the bathroom?) so I will tell them to count to 20 or 25 with the agreement that when they reach that number I will attend to their request. They often love turning this into a race so I do have to specify that the counting cannot be sped up
- Counting Cars – 20 minutes can feel like hours when driving with children who get bored or restless. A game we sometimes use to assist the car ride is to count cars. Normally each child will choose a colour and then count the number of cars they spot in the particular colour. White is the most common colour so often I will exclude that from their choices. Red, Green and Blue are amongst the favourites and if we really want a challenge we will pick colours like yellow or orange. Another variation of this is to see who can be the first one to spot 10 or 20 cars in their specific colour.
These are just a few ways we have incorporated numbers and counting into our day to day life but I am sure there are many other creative methods as well.
Written by: Monique Loewenthal
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