He counts the steps, the number of holes in his piece of cheese, the quantity of books on the bookshelf in the living room, the red tee-shirts in his clothing drawer. My six-year-old son is obsessed with numbers. He loves to count. A statistician-to-be? Maybe. But it is more likely that Pumpkin is going through a phase.
Learning how to count is a skill all children try to acquire at some point in their development. “Before entering kindergarten, a child possesses basic mathematical knowledge”, explains Francine Ferland, occupational therapist and author of thirteen pieces on child development. Beyond knowing how to recite a series of numbers, a child learns how to count objects little by little.
Around the age of two, children learn notions like “only one” and “several”, and then “a little” and “a lot”. Usually, around the age of three or four, they can count mechanically to ten. “They will be able to count between three and six items”, Ms. Ferland says. Around the age of five, children are able to count to 30 and can quantify up to ten objects displayed before them.
Parents may use games to help their children learn how to count. Asking questions and repeating will stimulate the little ones’ memory. “For example, we can ask a two-year-old: ‘Is there one or several?’ pointing at a set of objects. We can add nuance: ‘Yes, there are several, but only one is red’”, the specialist suggests.
We can introduce children to simple games to help them learn how to count.
– Counting, from a set of objects, the ones that are the same colour (pencils, small cars, etc.)
– Making a mistake on purpose when counting to entertain the child
– Singing rhymes like “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed”
– Getting the children involved when cooking: they can count the ingredients, the quantities, etc.
Francine Ferland insists on the fact that the activity must remain playful so that the learning is enjoyable. “It’s all a matter of attitude,” she says. “The notion of pleasure in games is important. We must follow the children’s pace and not try to accelerate their development.”