Your baby is like a paper towel. They’re soaking up everything around them! The first year matters greatly, so it’s important to maximize your learning time together.
It’s generally easy to perform language skills and practice with your infant, but when it comes to math, parents aren’t always sure what to do.
We’ve got you covered, however- we can show you some basic math games and skills you and your baby can do from infancy to toddlerhood, making it fun to learn about numbers and the important role they play in our lives.
Infant Math: Is There Such a Thing?
We certainly can’t teach infants how to add, subtract, do algebra or solve for X. But what we can do is lay the foundations for mathematical skills such as critical thinking and patterns.
For an infant, a math skill game comes in the form of problem-solving. For example, mom hides a toy under the blanket. Where is the toy? How can I get it back?
Another math skill is that of imitation. Imitation correlates with just about everything we ever learn- chances are when you learn something, you are imitating somebody else who is imparting their wisdom to you, via a video, a book, or face-to-face learning.
For babies, this could mean copying mom or dad when they clap.
So how does this tie back into math? Well, think about when kids learn to write their basic numerals. The teacher usually writes the numerals on the board, and the kids copy them on worksheets.
Cause and effect is another one. As a baby, this could be as simple as pressing a button and seeing a toy light up.
As you can see, it’s all about the basics when it comes to teaching babies about the fundamentals of mathematics.
So what skills can parents teach? Let’s dive into it right now.
One easy game to play with infants is pointing out shapes and identifying them to the child.
You can be as advanced or as simple as you like. You might show them a coin and tell them it is a “circle.” You might show them a box of rice and tell them it is a “rectangle.”
You can get advanced and tell them “pentagon” and show them a home plate at the local baseball field. Or you can show them a stop sign on a walk and tell them it is an octagon.
The great thing about shapes is that there are plenty of baby toys out there- and books- that cater to children’s need to learn about the many shapes that make up our world.
For example, try this fun sorting cube. The wooden pieces are vibrantly colored, and they are fun shapes, too- your child will love the stars, triangles, octagons, and squares. It’s perfect for parents who do not want plastic toys in the house because it is made of wood.
It’s perfect for little hands to enjoy again and again.
If you’d like to read about shapes to your baby, try this fun padded board book.
Board books are great for little hands to hold and gain fine motor skills. Babies will love the colorful pages, and parents will love that it uses photographs to provide infants with real-life examples of shapes. And if you REALLY want to get your kiddos into reading, check out Reading Head Start.
As a parent, you can talk about various forms of measurement with your infant. You can show them how big a potted plant is growing by showing them a photo of when you first planted it to the current day.
You can show them how heavy things are by having them hold a light object, and then a slightly heavier one. You can talk about how big they are getting when they are measured and weighed by their pediatrician.
You can compare the sizes of various things in your daily lives. For example, during a walk in the park, compare the sizes of two dogs you meet.
Toys exist that help infants learn about the concept of measurement. For example, these fun stacking cups are a great way to get them understanding how sizes of things vary.
Another classic toy includes stacking rings, which have been around for generations. Kids still love them, and they help promote fine motor skills AND help kids understand how sizes vary.
Matching and Patterns
Patterns are beloved by children, as it gives them something to look at. You can talk to infants about the patterns they see in their everyday lives. It could be as simple as talking about their baby blanket- “Look at these cool stripes on your blankie!”
Or, you might point out the patterns on animals you see in photos, at the zoo, or in books. For example, a book about tigers could involve a discussion on the patterns of the tiger’s fur. One fun book you can show your kids is I Am A Tiger, which not only promotes STEM knowledge but also creativity thanks to the included finger puppet inside the book.
(Note- if your child loves animals, you’ve got to check out Animal Island. It’s a hit with kids everywhere!)
Patterns and matching can be discussed when it’s time to get dressed. You can talk to, and show, your baby their clothing as you dress them. You can talk about how the clothing matches thanks to its patterns. Here are some fun gender-neutral cloud jammies your baby will enjoy wearing- with a fun pattern to boot!
You might also show the child two different socks and explain why the socks don’t match. Aside from math intelligence, these actions promote independence by showing the child how to dress him or herself.
Understanding objects and how they relate to one another is another concept you can teach your little one. The bonus is that this one can be done with just about any toy, especially when teaching children to clean up after themselves and put their toys in the box or closet.
You might tell the child where they are in relation to someone or something- “You are sitting on Grandpa’s lap!” or “You are sitting next to the recliner.”
When you ask your child to put their toys back in their toybox, you are also promoting spatial knowledge. Other toys such as the wooden cube mentioned above also promote this knowledge as the child has to place the correct shape into the correct slot, or it won’t go in.
Sorting out objects or classifying them into a certain category helps infants learn basic math concepts.
It helps them become aware of what’s going on around them and helps them learn differences among similar objects.
You can do all kinds of classifying or sorting activities whether it is with toys or tasks in your daily life.
For example, when you are sorting cans and bottles for return and recycling, talk to your baby about it. “We will put the cans in this bag. Then, we will put the glass in these bags.”
Or, suppose you are playing with toy vehicles. You might say, “I’m going to put all the trucks over here, and the cars over here.”
Sorting also happens with laundry. “We will wash all the shirts in this load, and the pants in the next.”
Some fun sorting toys you can pick up are ones like this sorting cup toy. Your child will have fun sorting the cute bears into the different cups. It’s a great price, too.
Sequences and learning the steps to do something are basic mathematic concepts. We all know that when it comes to solving multi-step problems, you have to do all the steps in the correct order.
You can lay the groundwork for this by teaching infants the steps to everyday processes.
“First, we will get dressed. Then, we can go outside and play.”
“First, we put on socks. Then we put on sneakers.”
These Play & Learn Stacking Cubes are a fun way to let your child explore the concept of sequencing on their own. They can stack the numbers from smallest to largest. As they get older, they can stack them according to the numbers located on the side of the cubes.
The cubes neatly nest together, so it helps to save space and makes storage easier. The cubes are covered in illustrations that naturally catch the eyes of young children. The cubes are made of cardboard, so should they fall onto your child or another youngster, they won’t hurt.
The Concept of Zero
Teaching the concept of zero to your child seems a bit abstract, but it can be done, even with infants.
While youngsters may not understand the concept of zero at a very young age, we as adults and caregivers can give them a good foundation for the idea of zero by using everyday household objects.
You can say things like “It’s all gone,” once they have finished their food or eaten the last baby puff/cereal bit from their tray.
You can show them an empty box and say, “There’s nothing in here.”
You can also draw the number 0 for them, and have them attempt to recreate it. Doing so will help your little one build fine motor skills. One great place to practice this is outdoors on the sidewalk.
Chunky sidewalk chalk is easy for little hands to hold, and kids will have fun freely scribbling on the sidewalk.
The Concept of More
Understanding the concept of “greater than” is as easy as giving your child more of something and less of another thing.
You can also point out differences in size with everyday household objects.
“The doggy has more food in his bowl than the kitty does.”
“This pile of puffs is bigger than that pile.”
“This truck has more wheels than this bicycle.”
This lays the groundwork for little ones to understand the concept of greater than and less than.
Earlier, we showed off some stacking cup toys for little ones. These are great for teaching kids about “more” or “less” thanks to the differing sizes of the cups. Classic stacking ring toys are great for this also.
Teaching mathematics to infants is all about learning the absolute basics. At this age, it may seem there’s not much you can do to teach kids about numbers and why they matter so much in our daily lives.
But that is far from the truth. At this stage, kids learn a lot through playing with appropriate toys and talking with their parents and caregivers about what’s going on around them.
Teaching your infant about math doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Using a few toys or basic household objects, your child can learn a great deal.