Sorting objects by color or size, beginning counting, and recognizing patterns are all early math skills your toddler is ready to master. There is a multitude of fun ways to show your toddler that math is an everyday part of her life.
Children who are visual learners rely primarily on their sense of sight to take in information, understand it, and remember it. Connect the dots books are a great way to teach visual learners basic number sequencing. You could also begin counting – everything. Count the number of stairs in your house or people standing in line, even the cracks in the sidewalk!
When you’re out running errands, go on a number hunt with your toddler. Have your child look for numbers on street or store signs, on license plates and call out the numbers as she sees them. You could also teach your little one how to make a phone call. Write down the number of a friend or family member, and have your toddler press the numbers, providing not only a friendly conversation but also teaching her about reading numbers left to right.
A physical, or tactile, learner relies on using their hands and sense of touch to make discoveries. One idea is to sort and count any household items. Your toddler could sort her socks by color, or stuffed animals by size or type. Better yet, enlist your little ones help in sorting and folding the laundry. Count how many t-shirts or undies there are and divide them into groups.
There’s a variety of activities you could provide using shapes. Take your toddler on a shape hunt around the house or while you’re at the grocery store. Be on the lookout for triangles, squares, circles, and stars – just one or all types of shapes. A shape-sorter, either homemade or store-bought – is another easy way to incorporate basic geometry while also improving fine motor skills.
Anything with patterns will help not only math but also early reading skills. Take your toddler on a hike in the woods or even in your own backyard and look for patterns in nature. Stripes on animals, rings on trees, even noticing pairs of “eyes” on a butterfly’s wings all develop your toddler’s math sense.
Toddlers who are auditory learners learn information best when they hear it. Some are able to concentrate on tasks better with white noise or music in the background, and others need to process what they’re seeing out loud in order to fully grasp it. A key technique to use if you think your toddler learns best through hearing is music. Counting rhymes and songs will make sense to your curious little one. A lot of toddler-focused songs will include math and counting. Between monkeys jumping on the bed, ants marching in, and this old man knick-knacking and paddy-whacking, your toddler will be giggling and singing along while learning important early math skills.
Knowing how your child takes in and processes information is an invaluable tool that can help you to best help her learn, but it’s important to include all the styles when you’re playing and working with your toddler. Teaching your toddler math should be just one of the fun activities you enjoy together. If you embrace math as a part of your daily life, your little one will too.
David Nguyen is owner of Kid Advance, the leading provider in Montessori school supplies and educational toys for children.