Starting with numbers
19 November 2019

Starting with numbers

Understanding numbers is a crucial skill that toddlers need to learn. Children will experience and observe varied concepts of maths from infancy. Examples of this would be quantity comparison and pattern recognition. Children can be taught numbers in a fun and interactive way, once they get to preschool age.

Toddlers as young as 12 months old are able to recognize numbers. There are a number of ways to work and play with your child to teach them numbers. Your child should even be able to start writing numbers he/she reaches the age of 3.

The brilliant thing about introducing your child to numbers is that there is no hard and fast rule on how to do it. There are numerous games, books, and songs that make the learning process so much fun.


Below are a few great ways to teach number recognition to your child:

  • Incorporate numbers into Everyday Activities: “How many cucumber slices do we have in the snack box today?” Or count together with your child, the number of items / toys in the room – especially if it’s clearing up time. Another example could be, while on the way to somewhere – play counting / or number recognition games along the way. Setting the table for family meals could be another situation where your child’s counting skills could be put to the test. Always seize the opportunity to turn a situation into a counting activity if more than one item is involved.
  • Number Songs: There are a great many songs that include the use of numbers. Be mindful to find songs with number limits, so you do overwhelm your child with large numbers so soon. You can find nursery rhymes and songs that count from 1-10 or backwards e.g. Old MacDonald had a farm, One Man went to Mow etc.
  • Learn Numbers via games and other tools: Young children like to play games, so what better way to incorporate the learning of numbers, than with the use of games. There are a variety of games that can be purchased for this purpose but don’t feel the need to stock your home with all sorts of games as a result. This is because you can also get very creative and improvise with what you have. Use what is already available in the home and amongst your child’s toy collection, to come up with ideas of how to introduce the concept of numbers to your child.  A great multisensory tool to use, is the abacus. The abacus does not only provide young learners with the opportunity to shine in the language of maths from a really young age, but it also provides that solid foundation for learning the concept of maths in primary and beyond. It therefore goes without saying that the sooner a child learns the abacus, the better equipped they will be. For toddlers, the first thing to learn on the abacus would be to learn how to count numbers from 1 to 10. Once a child has mastered this, they can go on to learn to count in bigger blocks.
  • Reading or Activity Books: Reading together is a great way to bond and nurture curiosity in toddlers and young children. Reading a number book to your child will enable them learn to recognize the different shapes of numbers as well as their orders. Activity books with tasks such as joining the dots, how many can you see? etc. are also great ways to help your child learn to recognise and write the numbers.
  • Using Cards: Yes, this probably should have been mentioned while discussing tools, but using cards is such an impactful and interactive way of teaching your child to recognise numbers that we felt this warranted it having a section of its own! As with any pack of cards, you can literally feel free to use them as you see fit, as any game you come up with be fun and your child will definitely learn in the course of this. This is (of course) excluding poker – which is number based as well (lol). Don’t forget the good old flashcards, which you could make with your child at home and use on the go. Although not necessarily strictly a card game, you could write numbers on one side of the cards then have your child draw items that total that number. Or you could call out a number and have your child show you the card. This could progress to you calling out a number and having your child write the number down and vice-versa. Such activities will without a doubt, allow your child’s creativity to grow with their number recognition.



As you can see, teaching your youngster number recognition is important and can be quite an enjoyable experience for all involved. However, you should note that even though starting early has its advantages, patience should be of great virtue here as your child will make mistakes and that should not be the main focus as it will take time to understand numbers and especially number orders, so you’d need to try and rein it in a bit.

Also be sure to note that your toddler is not just reciting the numbers, but is also recognizing them. This could be the case when children do a majority of their learning through songs. This is because they memorize the rhythm and don’t really pay attention to the numbers outside of the context of the song. This is why it is important to employ a variety of methods in order to achieve a more rounded outcome. Hanging out with numbers can be great fun Take your time with them and show your child that side to them!

Other maths-related links on our website are below:

Common Maths Difficulties

Managing Maths at Home

Your Child and Money

Leaders are Readers offers a Maths programme at different age levels. Click on the link below for more info:

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