By Annabelle Fee
Mathematics is a key subject at the school level and a vital one to understand for everyday life. However, it can be tricky to bring a toddler’s attention to it and help them to grasp how interesting it can be. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use every day to teach mathematics to a young toddler without them getting bored.
1. Make It A Shared And Fun Activity
Toddlers can easily start learning the shapes and meanings of numbers by the time they are 2 so there is no such thing as too early. Make counting and recognizing numbers a daily activity and you can always make it fun by using music (or even musical counting videos on Youtube) or by aligning it with a fun outdoor activity. Using musical numerical rhymes such as one-two buckles my shoes is also a way to get them to retain numbers better.
Practice counting forwards and backward and encourage children to apply this knowledge to their own daily routine such as counting toys or building blocks. This number sense can then be applied to adding and subtracting albeit on a minor level; for example, if you had 5 dolls but I took 3 away how many do you have left? These daily activates will mean they will pick up what is being taught in school very quickly because of its familiarity.
2. Daily Tasks Can Be Mathematical Too
Encourage your toddler to do daily tasks like setting a table or setting cups but give directions like ‘there should be 3 plates for 3 people.’ This can also be done when they are role-playing in games such as with a doctor’s playset or a toy kitchen. Furthermore, get them to sort items or toys into groups and then count them. For example, certain toys like cars should be in one group and so on and you can get started on basic word problems from there.
As with any learning initiative involving very young children, patience is an essential virtue for a parent as any children’s tutor that specializes in math tuition will tell you. Your child may take his/her time to grasp concepts and even then the result might not be what you want but it is important to remember that the mind loves repetition and the best learning is the type done consistently with practice over a period of time.
3. Encourage Spatial Skills
Mathematics is in part about measurements, directions, shapes, and sizes. Encourage your toddler to notice these aspects in his/her environment on a daily basis. ‘How high do you think that slide is?’ or ‘how fast do you think you were running?’ Direction, movement, positions are all geometric principles they will learn later in their school life but you can give them starters and a preliminary understanding.
Also allow your toddlers to use basic measurement tools such as a ruler or measuring tape. Let them measure objects around the house like tables or chairs and write down what they think the measurements are. It might be too early to teach them the units of measurement such as centimeters or inches but you can give them a primer and just let them follow the numbers on the tape or ruler.
4. Shapes And Sizes
Shapes such as a square table or a round plate or clock are easy shapes for a toddler to recognize and be familiar with. Teach them about the dynamics of shapes and sizes and tell them to point out these shapes as they see them when they are at home or walking around. Buy specific educational toys that inspire toddlers to recognize shapes such as Legos, puzzles, shape blocks (that give you shapes to fit inside a special cube), and so on. Online games on tablets and phones are also available but toddlers should be kept away from the blue light in devices as there is a great deal of research saying it impairs cognitive development at that age.
5. Undertake A Project
Plan a collaborative project with your toddler such as creating a table from scratch or putting together a swing set and allow them to help you. During the process, point their attention towards various aspects like measurements, shapes, and sizes. Let them see that mathematics does not exist just in theory but has practical real-life daily applications that can be a ton of fun. Allow your toddler to undertake measurements or help put an item together and praise them, you can always correct it later!