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When do toddlers learn to count?

How to help your toddler build their counting skills

Toddlers are probably able to count earlier than we thought. In fact, even if they can’t fully verbalize it, your toddler might be making sense of numbers right now

The toddler period, roughly considered ages 18 months to 2 and a half years, is full of developmental milestones. But when do toddlers learn to count? Suddenly you might find your little one not just singing rhymes about numbers, but actually quantifying them on their own. As it turns out, early childhood development researchers have discovered that even infants are born with an innate understanding of quantity.

At Wriggles & Giggles we include lots of counting rhymes songs and activities in each weeks sessions. The sessions run for 1 1/2 hours and include social & creative play and adult led music, song, instruments, puppets, light display, bubbles & music. Something for everyone and always something new to see and do. You can book onto a session in Yarm, Hartburn & Thornaby in Stockton on Tees, Monday, Wednesday & Thursday mornings on our booking page.

When do toddlers learn to count?

When toddlers learn to count is a question that doesn’t have one set answer. Every child develops differently and at their own pace. However, there are studies of babies that show that they can tell the difference between a smaller and a larger quantity. Babies recognise counting as numerically relevant years before acquiring the meanings of number words.

Children are acquiring the words for numbers just as they’re learning the words for other things. Usually, children are learning this through song and nursery rhymes. By hearing number words being used to emphasize their meaning, toddlers can make a leap that’s really important to learn that they represent quantity. In early years is when children are learning to connect number words to early quantities.

In this case early years is considered ages 3 to 5. This is to say that kids can likely count “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” as young as 2, but they likely won’t be able to fully grasp counting as it pertains to quantifying numbers until they enter the preschool stage. That said, every child is different, and some may pick up numeracy very quickly, at as young as 2 to 2 and a half. For others, it might be a 3 year development.

Making this a regular part of discussion with a child is the key. When you're reading a book say, ‘Oh, you know how many flowers are on the page?’ to the child. It’s about integrating counting into everyday life.

Cooking and playing snakes and ladders can also help build numeracy skills.

But ultimately the idea is to focus on math and numeracy just as much as you might focus on learning letters for literacy, even when a child is just starting to explore quantities. Research suggests that the sooner a child grasps numbers, the better prepared they will be to understand math later in life. Number sense in early years is a building block for later mathematical ability and invites educational interventions to improve number sense even before children learn to count

Which is all to say, it’s never too soon to start counting with your child and your early years will love it. Once children learn to count, they're so excited about it, they just want to count everything.


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