When I first became a mum, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to teach my daughter her numbers and letters. I was determined to be the parent whose children played in mud, used their imagination and weren’t burdened with learning ‘school stuff’ until they actually got to school. So, it was a rude awakening when my daughter started school and was suddenly in the bottom of her class. How could that be?! I wondered. She was so intelligent, intuitive and creative. After some self-reflection, I realised I hadn’t really helped prepare her for starting school. Now as a mum of 3, I’ve learned a few things that have really supported my children in learning their numbers and letters. With my youngest starting prep next year, I can see that she’s far more ready for school than my eldest had been.
So, where to start? First things first – it’s never too late to start teaching your children letters and numbers. Don’t feel like you’ve missed your opportunity because you haven’t started yet. It’s also never too early! My own experience has shown me that kids are fast and eager learners. Any focused attention you are willing to give them will be lapped up completely! When children learn numbers and letters, they are building a foundation for all future learning. When they master counting to 10, recognizing and writing their own name, and identifying numbers, they are developing pathways in their brain that they will use for the rest of their life.
Things I’ve found helpful:
- Make it fun. Learning doesn’t need to be boring. Make a game of counting red cars aloud while you’re driving to the shops. Sing songs with counting and letters, such as ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’ or ‘The Alphabet Song’. Try playing hopscotch and saying the number of each square as they hop on it. The opportunities to incorporate numbers and letters into play are ENDLESS.
- Be focused and attentive. Put your phone away, make eye contact with your child, and listen to them. Let them count to you; teach them the letters in their name. They will thrive with your attention.
- Affirm, affirm, affirm. Who doesn’t love hearing they’re doing well with something? Children are no different! Tell them when they are doing a good job, it will help them enjoy learning even more.
Need more help to get started? Here are 10 things you can do to begin teaching your child about letters and numbers:
- Read to your child. Let them sit on your lap. Read alphabet and number books. Have them help you count things on each page. See if they can recognize letters from their name.
- Play “shop”. Place an order for something (e.g. 2 apples) and have your child count them out to you. Ask them how much it costs and pay them, counting out each number to them.
- Sing songs with numbers and letters. Some other fun songs include ‘5 Little Ducks’, ‘5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’, and ‘The Ants Go Marching’.
- Use chalk on the driveway or path to show your child how to write their name. Have them trace over it.
- With chalk, write the numbers 1 through 10. Say a number and see if your child can stand on that number.
- Using a balloon, count how many times you can hit it up in the air before it lands on the ground.
- Cook together and have your child measure out the ingredients. For example, when filling the 1 cup measurement, count out how many spoonfuls it takes to fill it.
- Guess how many steps it will take you to get somewhere. “How many steps will it take us to get to the letterbox?” Take a guess. Then count out aloud together as you pace it out.
- Read a book to your newborn! It’s never too early to sit, connect and read to your baby. Watch their eyes when you read a picture book and tell them what they are looking at. Name objects on the page so they can connect the names with the pictures.
- While you are feeding your baby count with them. For instance, when they are having solids you can count with them how many mouthfuls of food they are eating!
See how many times during the day you can turn regular routines into opportunities for counting and teaching your child new words. Above all else, keep it fun for you and your child / children. Your only limit is your imagination!
Blog post by Nicole Ashley – Coordinator, Supported Programs
Need some music to sing with your children at home? You can purchase ‘Let’s Sing & Grow’ music as a digital download from www.singandgrow.org/shop/ .
Do you have older children (pre-prep) starting school next year? Check out our Developing Literacy and Numeracy Skills for Transition to School blog.
Want more on using music to support learning? Check out our Music for Literacy and Numeracy blog.