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Counting is an activity that you can undertake with your babies from very early on - the more they hear you counting, the more familiar it will become for them. Count fingers and toes when you are changing nappies, play counting games during the day and sing counting songs before going to bed. A recent study undertaken by researchers at Harvard University and published in the New Scientist suggests that the ability to understand numbers as an abstract concept is innate, with babies only a few hours old being able to understand numbers.
There are a number of concepts that your baby must understand whilst learning to count. First is the pattern of numbers: One, Two, Three and so on. Young toddlers may well learn to count to 10 but without really undertanding what they are doing - the numbers could just be a pattern that they have learned as with any rhyme or song. They also need to understand that numbers relate to quantity, and this is where counting play objects helps. You might create a stack of bricks, and count each one as you pile them up; you might count teddies and sit them around a towel on the floor ready for a picnic; or your can count peas, beans or other foods on your plate.
In addition to the names of letters, the order they come in and the relationship between number and quantity, there is also the numeric representation, 1, 2, 3 etc. Practice drawing shapes on a piece of paper and write a number under each. Also have toddlers copy lines of letters to practice writing each letter.
Don't forget the number 0, zero, nought! Perhaps trickier than other numbers because you can't draw 0 squares and you can't count to zero! 'Nothing' is as important a concept as all the other numbers, and its numeric representation is important too!
There's so much for your babies to learn in order to learn counting, numbers and the ability to write numbers, but as with everything else at this age, they'll pick it up amazingly quickly just with regular exposure rather than hard work! Obviously you want to push your children as hard as they can learn, but you will see signs if it's just too early for them to be learring, so just take it easy, they will get there eventually!
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