Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy is one of the vital six areas of learning in early years teaching and involves the development of creativity and critical thinking. Babies and young children look for patterns and connections, learning to sort and match and count as they develop the skills to solve problems and make sense of the world around them.
Shapes and spaces, sorting and matching and learning how to use numbers as labels for counting are all part of this area of learning and you can start helping your baby with this from a very early age. All kids can succeed in this pre-maths area as long as they get the opportunities they need to explore mathematical ideas in a way which can make sense to them personally.
Help baby by counting sometimes during daily routines (up to 3 or 5 at first and extend it as your child gets older). Teach the concepts of up and down, not only with steps and stairs, but with toys in your hands. On and under can be taught with a toy and a table or chair – it’s really easy to incorporate these ideas into daily play sessions with your baby – he/she is learning all the time.
Make sure you offer clay play or some sort – a great way of discovering shapes and the concept of more and less – clay is a great all-rounder in the learning arena. Paint and water play are also essential for progress, the mess really doesn’t matter – neither does the finished product have to be beautiful, the experience of doing really is what counts here.
Building blocks are great ways of introducing shapes and the concept of how shapes fit together, early counting and colour recognition. Playtrays and jigsaws are great for building concentration and hand-eye coordination while developing rudimentary mathematical and reasoning skills.
Stacking beakers can be used to talk about colours, sizes and shapes and the concept of inside and outside. Basic stacking beakers are also worth chucking in with the bath toys from time to time for pouring activities as well as floating and sinking.
By now you’re getting the idea that maths for babies is not about teaching little ones concepts way beyond their understanding to produce a hot house genius. It’s about using patterns and routines in your everyday environment to introduce the very basic concepts to your baby – the genius bit can wait for later on!