The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn – Maria Montessori
Maths is one of the core areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage which is the curriculum children in the UK follow from birth to five years. This is then broken down into two further categories; number and shape, space & measure. Each category has ‘milestones’ attached for children of different ages. As Emily is 8 months old, she fits into two of the age bands 0-11 months and 8-20 months. When you think of play you don’t necessarily always think of maths, however there are many mathematical concepts that children can and will learn through play. It is never too early to promote healthy learning habits and by following a child’s lead you can encourage learning in lots of fun ways.
The number milestones for her age are:
Notices changes in number of objects/images or sounds in groups of up to 3 (0-11months)
Develops an awareness of number names through their enjoyment of action rhymes and songs that relate to their experience of numbers. (8-20 months)
Has some understanding that things exist, even when out of sight. (8-20 months)
The milestones for the shape, space and measure category for her age are:
Recognises big things and small things in meaningful contexts. (8-20 months)
Gets to know and enjoy daily routines, such as getting-up time, mealtimes, nappy time, and bedtime. (8-20 months)
As you can see they are quite broad and a lot of things you do on a daily basis will come into one or two of those categories.
Whilst I’m not trying to teach Emily her times tables or how to do long division, plenty of her toys allow for mathematical learning. I’m going to pick out a few of her toys below and explain how they can promote mathematical development and encourage learning.
One of Emily’s favourite toys at the moment is her stacking cups. She LOVES them. If you hold out the largest one and keep it steady she will put the next size down cup inside it and gets so excited when it fits. She loves to watch me build a tower with them so she can knock it back down. She even claps when the tower falls. We also like to take the cups to the bath for some filling and pouring fun at bath time. This is a perfect time to use mathematical language such as ‘big, tiny, largest, smallest’. Filling and pouring also teaches babies about the concept of volume. The stacking cups we have are from IKEA and all have holes in the bottom so the water can fall through. They are so versatile and we play with them every single day.
Building blocks are another toy that we play with regularly. We only have 4 actual blocks as they came in a set with a Sophie the Giraffe story but for now this is the perfect amount. Emily has just learnt to place one block on top of another which is so cute to watch. Similar to the stacking cups she loves to watch us build towers for her to knock down and she is so pleased when she does it. I count the blocks ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ as I build the tower and I count the blocks for her as she plays too.
I’ve touched on water play a couple of times before, once discussing bath time. Water play is the perfect time to explore big and small, filling and pouring, volume and number. Emily plays with 3 light up ducks in the bath which gives a lot of opportunities to hide one, count the ducks, look for hidden objects – the possibilities are endless really! We have started to introduce a bath at bedtime as well as to play sometimes throughout the day. She is getting used to her new routine in the evening which again is building up on her mathematical skills.
How do you promote maths skills through play? What toys should I buy Emily?
Love Laura xx