Using real materials in their natural context is a great way to teach children about counting, sorting and colour. By letting them practice with everyday objects you will help them build the skills they need in their daily lives in a way that they can transfer between home and school. Better still, there are no expensive DVDs or books to buy — counting grapes is just as effective as playing with flashcards... maybe even more so.
Encourage your child to practice counting every time they sit down for a snack. It's fun and easy and your child will delight in mastering a new skill while getting their daily nutrition at the same time.
If fruit salad is popular in your house, you can encourage your child to practice counting by getting them to sort the salad into an ice cube tray. Toddlers in particular love sorting and transferring objects between containers so set your little one up with a tray and let them get creative.
A great way to start is to fill the first row of the ice cube tray with a selection of fruit. Fill the first hole with one strawberry, the second with two slices of banana, the third with three blueberries and so on until the row is full. Then ask your toddler to count the pieces in each row before eating them (or transferring them into the row below as they count).
Tiny Teddies are a popular treat for lots of youngsters but don't just hand them the packet. Encourage your child to count the teddies out into a cup, or count each piece before they eat it. You can do the same with a box of sultanas or banana chips if you're after a healthier option.
Why not get your youngster in on the action by letting them bake their very own number-shaped biscuits or crackers? If you don't have number-shaped cookie cutters then you can simply ice each biscuit with a different number after they have been baked and cooled. Or bake a fun savoury snack by using strips of puff pastry topped with a sprinkle of cheese to create each number before baking until they are golden and cooked through.
A fun way to encourage your child to think about numbers is to send them to school each day with a different number in their lunch box. So on Monday, pack one of each item — one sandwich, one apple, one muffin. On Tuesday, divide everything into two pieces and so on until you reach five pieces on Friday.
You can get creative by cutting each number out of one side of their sandwich, revealing the filling in between, or baking sultana numbers into healthy muffins for the week.
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