We never formally introduced numbers to her and she never showed any interest in them until a little before 2 years of age. What we did do was introduce her to a lot of pre-math skills.
Some skills are essential to be mastered before a child comprehends the concept of counting. For example, sorting (based on color, shape, size, etc), understanding big and small, more and less, patterns matching, etc. Although she was exposed to these since about a year, she started showing an active interest in these only after about 15 months.
Counting and number sense
At some point of time, when she started sorting onions in the kitchen, I found her automatically counting them. She was in charge of picking out the vegetables we would cut and she loved counting them. When we would walk down stairs, she would diligently count them up and down and marvel at how they were the same, always. Once she was interested in counting on her own, her questions always sounded like this, “Amma, how many tomatoes do we need?” or ” Amma, how many years am I?”
At this stage, we did a lot of exclusive counting activities.
By the time she knew counting from 1-5, she also knew that a written representation of words and numbers exist. This was mainly due to reading a lot of books. She loves looking at the numbers in a clock and asking for a concrete numerical representation. For example, “I’ll be with you in a while wont do. It has to be I’ll be there in 5 minutes.”
At this stage we just helped her practise, the transfer her knowledge in both the forms. There are plenty of activities one can do, available on Pinterest. We gravitate to activities based on specific creatures.
Now her questions have got a lot more specific, like how many stars are there in the sky or how many whales in the ocean or how many countries in the world. This seems a little much to me, coming from a child who knows only numbers until 10. Just last week, she had a conversation with an older kid in the park who mentioned ‘infinity’. V is having a gala time trying to imagine infinity. Truly, the child’s mind can surprise us if only we let it develop at it’s own pace.
A lot of parents ask me how and when on should start “teaching” numbers to a toddler. My answer is always the same- why should one teach anything when the child will herself start counting stars, leaves and the chips on their plate ( and argue that they need five more) soon enough?
At the moment, V has proceeded to transfer her knowledge of numbers to sides of objects and building structures in geometry. I cannot wait to witness the mathematical adventures that await us. Will keep updating them here.