Two Can Learn Better than One!

Tags: counting

Telling the Time

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: clock, counting, hands, numbers, o'clock, telling the time, time

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Telling the time requires a complex set of understandings; while it isn't something that preschoolers will pick up easily, you can begin to sow the foundation by learning the language of time and looking at clocks. Time is an abstract concept, that we have a precise name for every minute, every second even, that has fallen in history is a wild concept to grasp.

Start talking about time during the day, note that "It's eight o'clock, let's have some breakfast", "It's ten o'clock, let's have a snack", "It's half past twelve, let's have some lunch", and so on. Young children will begin to understand that there are names for points of the day, and that certain things happen at those points. If you have a chiming clock at home or you live within earshot of a town or church clock, then start to observe the 'bongoing' and have your little ones tell you what hour it is.

Look at a toy clock face and look at where the hands are pointing. Again, even a 'hand' 'pointing' to a number is a concept that has to be understood. Move the hands and show how they point to different numbers, this will help your little ones understand what you mean. Of course, they also need to be able to recognise their numbers up to twelve, and again, a clock face is great for counting and learning these numbers.

Familiarity at a young age will help your children to learn the rest of time telling more easily in due course.  They will probably only really grasp this when they reach six or seven, but introduce them to clocks and the language of time and they will begin to understand the whole process.

Dice and Dominoes

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games , Tags: building, counting, dice, dominoes, egytians, games, greeks, memory games, romans

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Dice originated in many cultures at different times and dice games have entertained many civilisations including the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.  Dominoes are believed to have evolved from dice in China in the middle ages.  Today they are as popular as ever and are great for playing matching and counting games with your little ones.

Buy sets of large dice and dominoes to play with your little ones (you can even buy garden sets).  Observe the different numbers of spots, look at matching pairs and count up the spots across two or more dice, or one or more dominoes.

Play 'collecting' games where you have to roll particular number combinations with the dice.  For example, roll three dice and see if you can roll a consecutive 'run' (ie. 1 - 2 - 3, 3 - 4 - 5 etc).  It may take a few turns but you'll get there eventually.  Play 'memory' games with dominoes.  Take out all the doubles, lay them around the floor, and see if you can turn up double one, then based on tiles you have looked at, double two, then double three.  See how few turns you can use to pick up the whole run in order.

Dominoes are also great for building with and will help practice fine motor skills.  Build pyramids and walls, or just play classic domino toppling. How long a line can you make, and topple, with a single set of dominoes?!


Familiarity with Letters and Numbers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Preschool Children , Tags: alphabet, counting, letters, numbers, phonetics

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Preschool children may not be able to read and write, but they can be taught to recite the alphabet and to count.  Young children learn through repeating sounds, so while they can learn to say the alphabet, they may not, at that stage, realise what they are saying, the alphabet will probably seem to be a stream of different sounds.  They may not even be able to distinguish the sounds for each individual letter.  For example there may be no rational way to deduce that 'double-yoo' (W) is one letter where as 'el-em-en' (LMN) is three letters.  However, teaching young children to recite the alphabet, and to count to 10 is still a very valuable exercise because it will start to reinforce a familiarity with letters and numbers that they will take with them when they start school.

Practice counting and to recite the alphabet when you are out and about, sing numbers and letters as songs.  Teach them the phonetic alphabet too which is probably how they will first be taught to say the alphabet when they reach school.

When you are at home or in a play setting, you can continue to say the alphabet and count using letter and number charts.  Point to the letters and numbers as you pass them and this will help with visual learning, tying together letters and numbers with their sounds.

Nappy Changing Activities

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies , Tags: counting, nappy, nappy change, nursery rhymes, sensory toys

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Changing your baby's nappy may only take a couple of minutes, but given that each of your children may go through upwards of 4,000 nappies, that's somewhere in the region of a whole week, non-stop, changing nappies...for each child! If you're going to spend so long at the task, you may as well try and make it a slightly more enjoyable experience!

For toddlers, use the time to play colour games, recite the alphabet or practice counting.  Sing lullabies and nursery rhymes, and just talk with younger babies.  The more spoken or sung language that children are exposed to, the more quickly they will become familiar with it and the quicker they will learn both to understand language and later, to speak it.

You can also give babies sensory objects to handle during a nappy change.  Sensory toys are designed to stimulate baby's, giving them interesting textures and feels.  Sensory toys will give your baby something engaging to play with while you do the dirty work, changing their nappy!

Apple Fun!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Art and Craft, Kids Activities , Tags: apples, colours, counting, craft, painting, printing

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Have fun with apples - here are some activity ideas for you to try with your little ones...

Apple prints - Start by covering the table and putting out different coloured paints in shallow dishes. Cut two apples in half; one vertically so you get the core and seed shape. The other horizontally so you get the seeds in a star shape. Dip each paint brush into the paint and cover the apple. Carefully press each print onto card. Paint on a stalk or some more seeds, when its dry, to finish it. Think of someone you appreciate or care about to send the card to them as a surprise. Talk about how nice it is to send other people notes of thanks. This is a great way to show the little ones how to appreciate others.

Hand-print apple tree - Take some brown paint and cover hands with it to make a great tree trunk! Press onto some card or paper. Take an apple and cut it in half then paint on green paint. Do lots of apple prints to make leaves for the tree! Use a finger dipped in red paint to add apples to the tree. Talk about apple seeds growing into little saplings, then growing into big trees and producing apples on them.

Apples and counting - Take an apple and cut it into slices. How many slices can you count together. Then pick out all the seeds. How many are there to start with? What about if you take one away or add a few more? Eat some of the slices and how many are left? Do lots of counting activities and see how good even the smallest toddler can be at counting with a bit of help.

Number recognition - Draw some apples - about ten of them - and colour them in in red, yellow and green. Write the numbers 1 to 10 on some paper and cut them out. Place a number in front of a couple of plates and ask your little one to count out the right number of apples into each place. So, if the number 2 is written they must count out 2 apples.

Colour sorting - Take 3 envelopes and draw an apple on the front of each one. Colour one red, one yellow and one green. See if your child can sort all the apples you coloured in the above activity and put them in the right envelope. Help them to start with, and then see if they can do it alone without you looking. Try it with some other things too.

Healthy eating - Show your little ones how lovely apples can be to eat too! They are great for printing, and counting and craft but best of all they taste great!

Go on an apple tree hunt round your area and see how many you can find... or other trees with fruit on them.  Have fun!

Counting on Cardinal Principle

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play , Tags: cardinal principle, counting, language, maths, numbers, research

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As grown-ups, it's easy to take for granted how easy counting is, but for a young toddler, learning to count is more than just learning a sequence of words as they might a nursery rhyme.  Counting involves being able to make a connection between numbers as words and a quantity of items.

This is called 'Cardinal Principle' and an elementary rule states that when you count a number of objects, the number of items in total is the last word spoken as you count them.  For example, if there are five apples on a table: 'One' - 'Two' - 'Three' - 'Four' - 'Five'.  'Five' was the last number encountered, therefore there are five apples.  This principle seems perfectly obvious to the developed mind, but this is one of the fundamental connections to make when learning to count for the first time.

Toddlers don't need to count items if there are three or fewer - they can look at them and establish how many there are.  No counting is required.

New research undertaken at the University of Chicago has discovered that children who are exposed more to the numbers between 3 and 10 as words make the connection between numbers and counting, and understand quantities sooner than children who hear those numbers less in everyday language.

Whilst this might seem an obvious conclusion, it reiterates the importance simply of counting objects over and over with children from an early age, and also of talking about quantities in everyday language.

Exposure to numerical language also helps improve mathematical capabilities later on in life which is much less obvious.  So by undertaking counting exercises regularly, not only are you teaching your children to count, but you are also improving their chances of doing well at maths later, which in turn might have a direct influence on their career path way ahead in the future!


Cooking Time?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Food, Drink and Eating, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: cooking, counting, food, ingredients, kitchen, measuring, tool, weighing

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The idea of cooking with children might fill you with horror, what with the mess, the organisation, the dangers and the unappetising results, but, with a little planning, careful thought and a bit of patience, you can all have a fulfilling and fun time in the kitchen.

Cooking actually covers various areas of the EYFS development programme and so it is a great focus activity.

  • Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy - count, weigh and measure ingredients together.
  • Physical Development - health and bodily awareness when talking about  healthy foods and using new and exotic tools to cook with.
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development - great sense of achievement when it's finished; personal hygiene when washing hands and preparing and learning about safety in a kitchen.

While cooking: Show your children the recipe and get all the ingredients ready in advance. Guide and direct the children through the cooking and keep them engaged so they don't get distracted and do their own thing.  Use tools and bowls that are the appropriate size so they feel in control and able to do the task.  Allow them to do as much as you can themselves without endangering them.  Talk about the dangers and hot areas to avoid (oven, hob etc).  Encourage them to help clear up and taste the food afterwards.

Why should they cook?

  • Introduce new foods and ways of eating.
  • Explain how foods and meals are made.
  • They learn numbers, counting and measuring.
  • They have to listen to instructions and carry the instructions out.
  • They have to understand sequencing - you have to break the egg before you whisk it!
  • They can make some great creations!
  • It's fun!

Happy Twitching!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Family, Days out, Kids Activities , Tags: bird watching, birds, counting, garden, park, rspb, survey

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This weekend is dedicated to our garden birds - the country’s biggest survey takes place with families all over the country grabbing pens and paper to record what birds come to their gardens.  Teach your children about the different birds to be seen in your garden, talk about the different colours and how to identify each type of bird.

To participate in the bird survey, simply go out into your garden or to a local park and sit for an hour (quietly!) and watch for birds. Note down what species you see and count them as you spot them. They must land in the garden or park rather than fly over.

When you have observed for an hour, and have your results, simply log your findings on the RSPB website ( There is a handy print out sheet on the site too to help identify the birds and, you can get a copy of last year’s results too.  Why not have your little ones draw a picture of your garden or the park with the different birds they have seen too?  Try making a map to show where you spotted each bird.

This event has been taking place for some thirty years. There have been results from nearly 280,000 gardens which gives experts an idea of how bird numbers are diminishing.

It is also great fun, good number practice and you'll feel part of a great effort to keep our local birds.  Happy Twitching!

Do The Walk!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Preschool Children , Tags: colours, counting, fit, games, healthy, ideas, letters, nursery, school, walk, weather

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Walking to pre-school or nursery in the bad, autumnal weather can be  a real bore for little ones, especially those who are only just out of the buggy.  Here are a few ideas to perk up your walk together and do a bit of fun learning on the way!

Weathery Walk - walk the way you might in different types of weather.

  • Trudge through snow
  • Battle against raging rain
  • Fan yourself in the heat of the hot sun
  • Keep upright in the blowy wind

Colour-Spy - spot things that are certain colours.  Find 3 red things (traffic light, post box, car) etc.

Letter Think - think of things that begin with certain letters.  Name 4 things beginning with "d".  Even little ones can do this with come help.  Give a clue to help them get to a "d" word.

Wonkey Walks - Walk in different ways between the trees you pass.  So, walk like a frog to the next tree.  Then walk like a monkey to the next tree.

Tree Races - If you live on a quiet road you could race to the next tree.  See who gets there first.

Count the Steps - estimate how may steps you need to get to the next landmark (tree/traffic lights) and simply count how many steps you actually take.  How close were you?

Car Count - name a colour and count how many cars you see on the way of that colour.

Walking to school or nursery is a great, healthy way to start the day;  these ideas will make it fun too!  Have a good day!

Crafty Spiders!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Activities , Tags: colouring, counting, craft, fears, insects, mini beasts, spiders

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It's very easy as parents and carers to pass on, without being really aware of it, some of our fears or phobias; a fear of spiders might be one of the most obvious ones!  However, in an attempt to counter this, and as a fun way to introduce children to one of the most common and varied insect in our gardens (and houses!), here are some fun activities to do with children, all about spiders!  Don't be alarmed if you are nervous of spiders, they're made of chocolate, cardboard and lots of coloured paint!

Tasty Spider - take a chocolate cup cake or chocolate covered round biscuit and pop on 2 cheerios as eyes.  Take  4 chocolate fingers and break them in half and stick them in the side to make a spider!  Perhaps share between two children to eat or you may have a sugar rush situation! Yum!

Rainbow spider - draw a round body shape and 8 chubby legs to make a spider picture to decorate.  Cover it with glue and stick on lots of coloured tissue paper in the colours of the rainbow.  Stick on some eyes and a happy smile and stick on a window so the light shows up all the lovely colours.

Egg box spiders - cut out the mounds from egg boxes and paint some bright, spidery colours.  Poke in 8 short lengths of pipe cleaners and bend half way down each to look like spider legs.  Draw on some eyes and thread some wool through the top so you have a spider hanging from a web.  Spooky!

Spider's Web - with a tube of glue draw a web shape on a piece of black paper.  Sprinkle silver glitter or sand all over the page.  Shake off any excess and you have a sparkly web covered in dew.  Draw a little spider on black paper and stick this on ready for action.

Number Spider -Draw a big spider body and eight wide legs on the back of a cereal packet and paint it lovely sunny colours. Cut out 8 small circles or use stickers and number each leg.  Practice counting 1 to 8 as you count the legs together.  Try taking the stickers off and encouraging your little one to recognise each number and stick it on in order.

Happy plate spider - take a paper plate and cover with paint.  Stick on some long thins strips of card as legs and paint these too.  Add some googly eyes and a big smiley face!

Who's scared of the spider!  Not Us!

Lollypop Stick Crafts

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Art and Craft, Kids Activities , Tags: counting, craft sticks, glueing, lolly pop sticks, making

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Now summer is here, ice lollies pops are a great way to keep cool, but how about saving all the sticks and making some great crafts with them?  Simply wash them well after use and store them together until you lots to play with. If you can't wait that long, you can also buy them from craft shops!  Here are few ideas to get crafty with the little ones...

Pen holder: (You'll need lolly pop sticks, glue and cardboard tube)

  1. Cut the tube so that it's just shorter than your sticks .
  2. Cover the tube with glue.
  3. Stick all the lolly pop stick onto the outside of the tube and allow to dry.
  4. Decorate with paint or stickers.

Fairy Wand for a Doll: (You'll need lolly pop stick, card and silver glitter)

  1. Cut the card into a star shape, decorate the sticks and star with glitter.
  2. Allow to dry then attach the star to the end of the stick.  Magic!

Flower Garden: (You'll need green card, paint, egg carton, glue, play dough)

  1. Paint the sticks green and attach leaves cut out from the green card.
  2. Cut out cups from the egg carton and snip round the sides to make petal shapes: cut round or pointy shapes.
  3. Decorate with paint to make into flowers.
  4. Glue onto the sticks and display by sticking into a lump of play dough.

Puzzle: (You'll need 6 sticks, sticky tape and paint/pens)

  1. Place the sticks next to each other and tape together.
  2. Draw on a picture and colour it in.
  3. Remove the tape.
  4. Mix up the pieces and then recreate the puzzle!

Games: (You'll need 15 sticks and 5 different coloured paints).

  1. Paint 5 sticks red, 4 sticks green, 3 sticks blue, 2 sticks yellow and 1 stick purple.
  2. Mix them up and use them to practice counting, sorting, colours, make shapes, adding etc.

Home Help with Sums!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: adding, counting, numbers, sums

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Sums, maths, numbers - what ever you choose to call it, we cannot deny that learning the basics about numbers and adding up is one of the most important things your child will learn.  Numbers are everywhere and play a great part in our lives.  Even if you consider yourself to be no mathematical genius, there is still loads that can be done to put our children on the right path when it comes to numbers.  Apart form actively helping them understand their numbers, it is great for their self esteem if a parent or carer shows an active interest and shows a positive attitude towards numbers.

Here are some tips to get involved with numbers from an early age.

  1. Count steps when you climb stairs.  Practicing over and over is the way to reinforce numbers and counting.
  2. Play games with your child: throw dice and count the dots, play snakes and ladders, dominoes and other number related games.
  3. For older children look at money and the numbers on the coins and notes.
  4. Look at door numbers when you go for a walk.  Predict what number the next house will be.
  5. Do some physical games that involve scoring or counting.  How many balls can be thrown in the bucket?  How many goals did you score?
  6. Make sure there are some number toys in the toy box: rulers, clock, counters and coins, tape measure, pack of cards.
  7. Keep an eye out for various patterns as you go out and about.   Copy any designs you see or spot shapes in the design (floor tiles for example).
  8. Look at clocks and calendars together.  Talk about time and days.
  9. Do simple arithmetic.  Add up grapes at tea or sandwiches on a picnic.
  10. Do cooking.  Make some simple recipes and weigh out the ingredients together.



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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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