Young children are natural explorers and observers. During the first 3 years of life, children need the adults around them to help them make connections between what they observe and the language used to describe those experiences. As with most development skills, early mathematical thinking is integrated into lots of other areas of development, for example – language skills.
Use rich math language when talking to children. They will not understand every word you use, but in order to learn the words, they have to hear them over and over again. Try to use math language to create context or explain something about the child’s experience. Here are a few examples:
- After feeding an infant, say “You must have been hungry, you drank your whole bottle,” or “You must not be very hungry right now, you only drank half of your bottle.”
- When dressing a child say, “Your socks have a pattern – they are red/blue/red/blue,” or “Let’s put one leg inside the right pant leg, and the other leg in the left pant leg.”
- While children are playing say, “You are sitting next to, or beside, Jamel,” or “You just placed the green block on top of the yellow one and the blue block is on the bottom.”
- During circle time say, “Our group has 8 children in it today,” or “Usually, we have 8 children in our group, but David is sick today, so there are only 7 children here.”
- Before an art activity say, “Julianna, if you would like to paint, come sit at the blue square table,” or “Today we will be using wide and thin brushes to paint different kinds of lines.”
- When a child arrives say, “Your book bag is heavy today, there are many items inside it,” or “Good morning Theo, you are the first child to arrive today. I am glad you are here.”
- On a walk say, “Look at these two trees, one is very tall and the other one is short,” or “Can you put your hand around this small tree trunk? How many children would it take to give the big tree a hug?”
- While children are exploring the sensory table say, “How many cups of sand fit into the red bowl?” or “Who has the biggest pile of sand in front of them?”
- During clean-up time say, “Zoe, please pick up the circles and Max is going to pick up the squares,” or “Let’s see how fast you can put all of the blocks into the basket.”
Sing songs about itsy-bitsy spiders and great big bears. Include clapping to the rhythm of the song or poems. Songs like the Hokey Pokey can be modified to be easier for young children to understand. You can switch out left and right for one arm and the other arm, for example.
Be sure to provide a routine that allows children time to explore the environment, experiment, and make observations. More importantly, provide a wide variety of safe and interesting materials for children to explore.
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For the main article Promoting Mathematical Thinking, CLICK HERE
For the article Preschoolers, CLICK HERE
For the article Kindergarten and School-Agers, CLICK HERE
For the article For Families, CLICK HERE