Get off to a good start with maths - how to introduce your toddler to numbers

Get off to a good start with maths - how to introduce your toddler to numbers

'Can my 3-year-old use Komodo?'

'What maths should my son be doing at age 3?'

We get asked these questions a lot here at Komodo HQ, and while we feel that 2 and 3-year-olds are too young for Komodo, there are plenty of other ways to kick-start your child’s curiosity and enthusiasm for numbers. 

Play, play, play

At age 3 structured play along with telling stories, singing and reading is crucial to the learning process and forms a significant part of a child’s early development. 

Playing helps young children's brains to develop and their language and communication skills to mature. It teaches young children about communication, how to solve problems, and helps develops their motor skills. 3-year-olds improve their logical thinking skills through play by doing activities like puzzles and sorting objects. 

As a technology company you may think we’d encourage playing with apps, but at this early age tactile play with real objects works best. It can be as simple as counting the fruit in the bowl or the number of steps in the hallway - either way, it’s hands-on play that works best. 

Development of the mathematical brain

Psychology research suggests that infants begin to process numbers (at a very basic level) even before they start to speak. There is also evidence that children are born with a natural ‘toolkit’ for processing numbers, and that this innate ability can be developed by acknowledging and talking about the numbers involved in everyday activities from a young age. 

Previously, it was thought that learning to count had little relevance for children’s developing thinking skills. But researchers have now recognised that the emergence of children’s counting skills is really important, and that it provides the strong foundation for developing more complex mathematical skills. (read more on this here)

Encourage a love of numbers with your young child

Here are some ideas you can try to help your 3-year-old begin to understand and develop a love of numbers:

Talk about numbers

Talk about the numbers that are all around us - you’ll probably surprise yourself when you see how many there actually are! From the remote control and your phone to supermarket aisles, front doors and buses, there are numbers to be found everywhere. Talking about numbers early will help your child see how much they are a part of everyday life. 

“When my son was 3 he loved to see the number 8 because he thought it looked like a snowman. He took great delight in finding it and pointing it out everywhere he could. We moved on to other numbers and soon he could point them out too - it was fun and ended up being a good activity to help keep him engaged, especially in the supermarket while we did the weekly shop!”

The shape of numbers

Write numbers in sand, chalk them on the ground or use modelling clay to shape numbers and call them by their names to help your child associate the verbal number with its written counterpart.

Count on it!

Count whenever you can with whatever you have. Objects like toys, dry pasta or beads are good for sorting, and if you count sweets as they are handed out you’re guaranteed to have your child’s attention!

“When Adam was 3 we would count as we pushed him on the swing, up to 10 or 20 and back down again. I think it really helped develop his number sense - being told he had ‘ten more swings’ and then counting through them really helped him to get to grips with quantity and ultimately taught him how to count.”

Singing by numbers

Sing songs and rhymes that focus on counting, like

“10 green bottles sitting on the wall….”
“1, 2 buckle my shoe; 3, 4 knock at the door….”
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive….”

And don’t forget the wide range of books that introduce kids to numbers, like ‘One Mole Digging a Hole’ and the enchanting ‘One Ted Falls out of Bed’ both by Julia Donaldson. 

Sorting and grouping

Let your child sort objects into different categories and talk about what categories they’ve picked. A good chance to do this is at tidy up time when you can say ‘I’ll pick up all the blue toys, and you pick up all the yellow toys,’ or soft toys and hard toys or any other categories you can think of that your child will understand. 

Use your maths words

At Komodo our favourite is just going for a walk and talking about what you can see around you - compare the sizes of trees, count how many ladybirds you can find, pick up the longest stick and the shortest twig… all of this is maths (and it will also hopefully also lead to a happy, tired kid at bedtime!)

Maths and numbers are all around us, and so are opportunities to give our children a solid introduction to numeracy in a hands-on way that will stand them in good stead for their school years and beyond. 

Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11-year-olds to use at home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy family routine. Komodo helps users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

And now we've got Komodo English too - check it out here.

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