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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.

Number Practice

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Activities , Tags: numbers, numerals, zero

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Numbers surround us wherever we go and this makes for great opportunities when teaching your littlest ones their numerals. When you are reading, look for page numbers or other numbers such as in the price or other publishing information.  Ask your little ones to look at the page and point to a particular number.  When you are in the kitchen, ask your little one to look around the room and find numbers perhaps on a calendar or a clock, or displayed anywhere else.

Having your little ones look about and pick out numbers will help them to learn to identify their numbers and cement their knowledge. Stay just with single numerals rather than whole numbers that are higher than nine.

Make sure you learn zero as well as other numbers because zero is important for learning longer numbers such as 10 and 100.  Also explain what zero is because it is slightly more complex than other numbers.  If you have one apple or two apples, the number is obvious, but if you have no apples, it takes a little more abstract thought to equate that to zero.  Of course, once they get it, it will be completely obvious to them!

Money Games for Toddlers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games, Kids Activities , Tags: coin rubbing, coins, memory game, money, numbers, sorting

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Money games aimed at preschool children should teach them counting and to recognise coins rather than adding or subtracting which is probably still beyond their understanding.  Keep a collection of coins to hand, especially lots of pennies which they can count on.  Here are a few ideas for games using money:-

Memory Game: Take four coins of different denominations. Show your little one what coins they are and what value or number each is (eg. 1, 2, 5, 10).  Take a sheet of paper and place a coin under each corner without them seeing.  Ask where '1' is and allow them one peek under one corner.  If they are right, they win the coin, if not they must replace the paper over the coin.  Then ask for a different coin and repeat until they have found them all.

Pairs and Sorting: Take two coins each of a variety of denominations and lay them all out on a tray. Have your little one pair the coins together based on size and colour.  Can they sort them into order, either by number if they are able, otherwise by size?

Heads and Tails: Take a handful of coins and explain the difference between 'heads' showing the queen, and 'tails', the other side.  Say a pattern such as 'Heads, Heads, Tails' and have them line up three coins in the right way.  Make the pattern longer and longer to see how many they can remember and line up in a row.

Number Hunt: Take a selection of coins that between them display all the numbers from 0 to 9, include the year they were minted for numbers that don't appear in the denominations.  Lay them all out, start at '0' and have your little one find a zero.  Then look for '1', '2' and so on, up to 9.

Coin Rubbing: Tape some coins to a piece of card, lay over a sheet of paper and colour over them with a wax crayon to create copies of the coins.  If they struggle to keep the paper still whilst rubbing then tape the paper down too.  See if you can spot different numbers and pictures as they appear through the paper.

Olympic Challenge: This is a longer term project!  To celebrate the 2012 Olympics, 29 special fifty pence pieces have been minted, each depicting an Olympic or Paralympic sport.  Start collecting and see if you can collect all 29 fifty pence pieces.  Every time you receive change in a shop, show your little one and ask them to pick out any 50p's.  Generous retailers might be able to give you more 50 pence pieces in your change if you ask!

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.

What's the Time?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Activities , Tags: activities, clock, numbers, tell the time

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It's really a vital skill to have and telling the time can be easy to learn if you make it fun.  Teaching the clock can be hard, but once children get familiar they will feel confident enough to lear how to tell the time. 

  • Start by counting the numbers together, get familiar with the clock face and the numbers.  Name the numbers and count round the clock.
  • Watch a real clock and how the hands move round.  Spot the big hand, the little hand and the second hand go round and explain each tells us different information.
  • Search for different clocks and watches and alarm clocks and digital time displays rond the house.  You'll be surprised how many clocks there are including the DVD player, oven, burgler alarm, alarm clock etc. 
  • Listen to clocks.  Find clocks and watches round the house and listen to them.  DO they tick?  Listen to the ticks and explain each tick is one second.
  • Go online and search for different clocks and watches to look at.  See if you can find a few videos of clocks chiming and ticking. 
  • Make a clock.  Take a paper plate, or a round piece of card.  Make 2 hands for the clock and use split pins to secure them to the centre of the clock.  Write on the numbers in the correct place.  Decorate the face of the clock to make it look really swish.  Then use the home made clock to try and teach the time.  Start with the hour hand and move round to the different numbers to get the idea of the hours.  Then look at the minute hand and the number of minutes in an hour.

Take it slow and keep it nice and easy...

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!


Maths is Everywhere!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Activities , Tags: cooking, fun, games, maths, measuring, numbers, patterns, shapes, size

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Maths and counting and numbers may not be your preferred subject and it may bring back memories of dreading the maths lessons as school and struggling over homework, but it doesn't have to be like that!  While hard sums are a long way down the line for our children, it's a great idea to get them in the swing of counting and using numbers, even when they are small, so they are confident when they get older.  It will serve as vital building bock for future maths.

Here are a few simple way of incorporating numbers, counting and sums into your toddler's life.  You'll see how easy it is!

  1. Count together at every opportunity: Count when drying toes and fingers, when marching up stairs, when passing trees, when stepping along the road to nursery, when passing cars in the street. Make it something you do at least once on every outing! It needn't be counting to 100; just to 10, and then 20, is a great start.
  2. Sort things: Arrange things in order and sort into groups.  Mix coloured bricks or trains and cars and ask them to sort them into piles.  All yellow bricks here and all red bricks there!  Sort the washing together, sort the food after shopping: fruit here and vegetables here.
  3. Cooking: Make a cake together and mix in spoonfuls of raisins or cherries, measure and mix together to make a delicious cake.  Or simply cut vegetables and count a few for each person at dinner.
  4. Shapes: Go round the house naming shapes, or when out for a walk spot things that are a particular shape: rectangle letter box, round, sign, square garage.
  5. Compare Size: Find the big book and the small book. Ask which is widest, which is longest? Sort books or other objects into size order.
  6. Patterns: Teach patterns and talk about patterns.  Sort coloured blocks and make patterns with them or look at patterns on clothing or in books.
  7. Bath time: Even in the bath measure and pour water into little jugs.  Talk about full and empty.

Making learning fun is the fundamental ideal of ToucanLearn, it's fun and learning for you and your little ones!

Have fun!

Travel Games on London Underground

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Days out , Tags: bus, colours, letters, london underground, numbers, plane, shapes, train, tube, underground

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Getting young toddlers to sit still on the London Underground can be slightly tricky because it's such an exciting place to be, and lots of other tube passengers are standing, so why shouldn't your little one?!

Luckily there is so much distinct iconography inside tube trains that can inspire even the youngest traveller to play fun games.  Look for different colours, shapes and letters.  Look around a tube carriage and you'll see yellow warning triangles, red circles for London Underground's logo and no entry signs on doors between carriages, blue rectangles and squares with notices inside.

You'll see the tube maps with lots of coloured lines on - ask your little one what colours they see.

Look for letters in the signs and adverts stuck all over the carriage, look for the letters that your children's names begin with.  Look for numbers - especially the number of how old they are.

Play I-Spy looking for items of different colours ('I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is red').

Older children can look around and spot all the different warning signs and instructions littered around the carriage - have you ever noticed just how many rules there are when you embark on an Underground journey?!

Of course most of these games will adapt to any train ride, and even journeys on buses or planes too.

You'll be amazed at just how quickly your journey goes, no matter how long it is.  Just take care that you don't have so much fun that you miss your stop!

Bath Toys

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games , Tags: bath, bath toys, bathtime, bubbles, craft, crayons, facecloths, flannels, letters, numbers, shapes

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Bath toys can turn a fairly boring part of nighttime routine into a bit of an adventure - there are so many fun toys, games and ways to make bathtime interesting, why not treat your children to a new experience every few weeks?!

So you don't think there's room for doing craft in the bath?  Wrong!  Older children will love bath crayons which can be used for drawing on the inside of the bath.  Rub them out after bath as otherwise they can be more difficult to remove, and if left too long, may stain permanently.  Younger children will enjoy foam shapes, letters and numbers that adhere to the side of the bath when wet.  All of these are widely available in toy shops.

Water Works
Many more traditional toys allow children to play with water, experimenting with pouring, flowing and other properties.  Bath toys can be quite expensive, so look at the value you think you'll get from the toy before buying.  Well designed toys will teach children about the properties of flowing water, and of course, will offer hours of fun!

Bubbles and Potions
Children love bubbles, bath colourings and fizzy bath bombs or balls which you will find in most supermarkets and chemists.  Do be aware that bubbles may dry your children's skin if they have sensitive skin so use a new formula with caution.  You should find bubbles formulated for gentle skin but you may find even these aren't good for your little ones.

Fun Facecloths
Your children may be more receptive to having their faces washed if they have fun flannels, and none are more fun than the magic expanding flannels that come as small dry blocks and unpack into full size flannels in water.  These are widely available from toy shops and supermarkets, and make a great little stocking filler at Christmas time!


Today's children are spoiled for choice in the sheer array of bath toys on offer!  Brighten up bathtime and have your children look forward to their evening dip, as much as anything, it will help make routine easier for you!

Number Games

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: cleaning, helping, learning, numbers, playing

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Exposing chiuldren to numbers early through counting and number games males them familiar with numbers from a young age.  Numbers are very important to a child's education and so many children 'struggle', but it needn't be like this.  Numbers are all around us and simply becoming familiar with numbers when they are little, is the best way to get a head start and give your children confidence for later life.  Most importantly, you don't need to be a maths genius yourself!  If you make it fun, they won't even know they are learning.

Here are a few number and counting games to introduce numbers in your everyday life:

Count things: How many pototoes on to a plate?  How many stairs as you walk up, grapes as you eat them?

Spot numbers: When you are out, look at door numbers, telephone numbers, car number plates, prices in shops and other numbers that can be observed all around.

Number games: Count the flowers in the garden, throw socks into a basket and count as you go, count how long it takes to run from one end of the garden to the other.

Number songs: Sing number songs like Once I Caught A Fish Alive, Five Fat Sausages and Ten Green Bottles.

Count your shopping:  How many pieces of fruit in the basket?  How many boxes in the trolley? Play shops at home too and count, make price tags and add up the food  you buy together.

Get cooking: Measure and weigh the ingredients, count the paper cake cases, time the cooking, give 20 stirs with a wooden spoon.

Measure things: How tall is the chair?  How tall is you child, or a teddy or the book shelf?

Get cleaning: Get your children to wipe the tables 20 times, dust the book shelf 15 times, splash the outside chairs with bubbly water 10 times.

Washing up: Count and clean the plastic cups and plates and do the washing up at the same time.  How many are in the bowl, how many are drying, how many are clean?

Have fun!

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.


Simple Card Games for Toddlers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Toys and Games, Child Development, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: card games, hi-lo, matching, numbers, old maid, pairs, playing cards, quantities

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Many games are too complicated for the youngest toddlers to grasp, but there are plenty of games you can play with a regular pack of playing cards that will introduce the whole gaming concepts to toddlers.  A pack of cards consists of 52 cards and 2 jokers - that's probably too many for most games, but pick out a suitable number of cards for your purposes, based on the capabilities of your little ones.

Pairs is a great game for toddlers.  Select your cards, maybe two suits to match numbers, or perhaps two cards from each suit (8 cards in total) to match suits.  You could just match red cards and black cards.  Lay the cards out face down and, in turns, turn two cards over.  If they match, you keep them.  Toddlers may not understant taking turns but they can play alone as a challenge. Pairs will help develop mental ability, colours and numbers.

Practice counting by taking ten cards from Ace to Ten, shuffle them and have your toddler lay the cards out in order.  This will also help tune their motor skills with careful laying out.

Hi-Lo is a great way to teach values.  Lay ten cards out, face down, in a row.  Turn over the first card, and ask your little one to guess whether the next card will be higher or lower in value than the first.  Then turn the card over and see if they were right.  This will help to develop notions of quantity as well as  reasoning and decision making.

Old Maid is more advanced for little ones.  Take two suits of cards and remove one of the two Queens.  Deal the cards out, and have each player discard any pairs.  In turn, offer your cards, face down, to the player on your left.  That player takes one card and if it matches one of their own they discard the pair.  If not, they keep the card.  Play continues until the losing player is left with the odd Queen!

Play with cards, balancing them to stand them up, lay them into patterns on the floor or lay out lines to use as roads for toy cars.  A pack of cards introduces limitless games helps your little ones practice numbers and many other skills.

Learn to Count

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Learning Play, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: counting games, learning to count, numbers, zero

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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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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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