Sunday 22 April 2012

Counting Out

Children learn to count, usually by hearing the numbers over and over again. They practise reciting the numbers in order and they listen to parents and teachers counting things, so they gradually learn and remember the order number. However, once a child is able to recite numbers in the correct order they need to be able to apply this to counting out objects. In the early foundation stage this is something which your child will focus on.

At a recent parent consultation Garden Boy's teacher was telling us that counting a row of objects is much easier for your child than counting a group of objects, randomly organised. It is also harder for a child to count out objects by moving the object location. For instance, a child who is asked to put 10 items into a bucket will find it harder to count the objects than a child who is asked to count 10 objects which are organised in a line on the floor.

Garden Boy can count up to well past 20, however I have noticed that when he counts items, he can find it hard to keep track of what he has already counted. He will count some things twice, or he will miss out an item. Practising as much as possible is the best way to improve counting skills. But, as with all maths, it is usually better if the child doesn't realise it is work, so here are some ideas for counting activities.

  • Ask your child to share out sweets. Instead of buying small packets, buy family size packets and when they have sweets ask them to count out a certain number. Change the number each time. If they are interested enough, ask them to count out 3 blue sweets, 5 red ones etc. Do the same with fruit. It will be harder for your child to count 10 grapes into a bowl if they have to pull them off the bunch as well as count them.
  • Be specific about quantities when they are helping you cook. For instance, get them to measure out 4 ounces of raisons with you but then tell them the recipe also needs 12 additional raisons which they can count out for you.
  • If you are packing for a holiday let your child help by counting out the correct number of socks and pants they need to take. Counting into a suitcase will make it harder for them, so when they think they have the right number, ask them to row up the pairs of socks and count them again to double check. They will find this easier and will probably be able to work out themselves if they have made a mistake. Basically, whenever there is an opportunity for them to count for a real reason they will be more willing. Garden Girl loves packing for picnics and holidays and will count things out for me because she wants to help. Garden Boy needs the humour of thinking he might have to go pantless for a day if he doesn't count them out properly. And often he will deliberately count one less so I joke about his bare bottom!
  • When you are reading with your child look at the pictures and count things in them. How many times does a particular cat appear in a book? How many flowers are there on the page? There are also some excellent counting books available. We love, 'Counting Colours'. 
  • Play 'Counting Catch'. Count every throw and then when someone drops the ball, start again and see if you can beat your score. Garden Girl loves trying to reach a higher number. We play 'Counting Football' with Garden Boy and we roll the ball, rather than throw it, with Garden Lass.
  • Play musical instruments and get your child to count how many times you bang the drum, blow the whistle etc. Get them to copy you. Make up songs using different instruments and see if they can remember when you switched instrument. Let them make up tunes for you to copy.
  • Have garden races where they first person to collect 5 stones and put them in a bucket wins, or when they are tidying up, make it a race. The first person to put 10 toys away gets a sticker. 
  • When your child is drawing pictures, ask them to put a certain number of petals on a flower, or a certain number of birds on the sky, or a certain number of spots on the alien.
There are so many opportunities for counting during play. The suggestions above are all good ways of getting your child to do 'hard' counting. The items they are counting are randomly displayed, need counting into something or require your child to be doing something else at the same time, such as throwing a ball or drawing. The more they do this kind of counting, the more skilled they will become.

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