Teaching Math to Infants and Toddlers
“One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, shut the door,”, “Jack and Jill went up the hill,”, “You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out,” these are tools that we have used forever to teach math language to children. Many caregivers never realize the connection between the lyrics to the math concept. Of course, we hear the rhythm and the sing song fun of it all. But, above all that, we are teaching counting, spatial awareness, patterning, shapes, and so much more. Teaching math to infants and toddlers can be so much fun and truly enrich the development of the child. And, we do this every day without even thinking about the fact that we are teaching our child.
Early Childhood Education
If we do this math language every day without realizing we are teaching the child, imagine what impact it could have on the child if it was taught with and on purpose beginning at the infant stage on a regular basis? And, there it is… the whole concept of early childhood education… realizing what is to be taught, how, and when.
At Kidz World, we utilize a faith-based Pinnacle Curriculum. What a curriculum does is tell the teacher what needs to be taught and provides activities that teach that element. Many of the activities teach across multiple areas of focus such as math, language, social/emotional, etc. The more areas of focus that can be drawn in, the better the lesson. The same can be said for how many of the five senses can be incorporated into the lesson. When we further expand with repetition and pull in fine and gross motor education… we are providing a solid, well-rounded lesson that provides encouragement for learning and development.
Take, for instance, the Hokey Pokey. By teaching math through the Hokey Pokey, we are teaching the children language, music & movement, spatial awareness, repetition, patterning, rhythm, one-to-one correspondence, social/emotional, cognitive, and gross motor skills. Now, that’s a lot of teaching for one little song; but, most people never think about it along those lines. It’s just a fun thing children do.
Teaching Math to Infants and Toddlers
This week, I followed Ms. Anne (the Curriculum Specialist at Kidz World) on her daily adventures in the infant and toddler classrooms. The lesson on this day, math. The children had an absolute blast. Let’s take a look at some of the activities that were completed and what they taught.
We started out in the infant room. Ms. Anne started with the theme of the week items, “The greater garden”, she pulled out beautiful bouquets of flowers and had the infants look at them, touch them, and smell them. She counted them. She told them the colors of the flowers. She put them down and she picked them up. She then pulled out buckets with fish and demonstrated to the infants how to put the fish into the buckets. She handed the buckets to the children and they followed her instruction, putting the fish into the buckets and pulled them back out again, repeating this action many times. After the infants had their fill of the buckets, Ms. Anne pulled out rings and showed the children how stack the rings on the tower. She handed one infant the red ring and he placed it on the tower. Another child got the blue ring and placed it on the tower. The tower was passed around the circle and the ones that could, placed the ring on the tower and took it off. The next part of the lesson included reading to the infants. They love to be read to so immediately they focused their attention on the book in Ms. Anne’s hand. She read to them and showed them the pictures. She pointed to the characters, colors, and shapes. The lesson was ended with a song in which the children danced.
This lesson was teacher-directed, however, as with any good early childhood education, it turns into a child-directed lesson at some point. How does that happen? The child is curious and wants to touch. The teacher will then stop her lesson and turn her attention to the fact the child is wanting more. So, she asks, “Do you want to touch the flower”. This can lead to further expansion on the lesson, “This is the red flower, these are the red petals, and this is the green stem”. The child is then encouraged to touch all parts of the flower. Now we have incorporated science, sensory work, and fine motor skills into the lesson.
Just look at what this one 30-minute lesson taught our group of 10 infants, aged 3-months to 17-months! You just can’t pack much more learning into one short lesson. The lesson crossed multiple areas of focus, utilized fine and gross motor work, was teacher and child-directed, and encouraged learning through multiple senses.
Adding Tools to Expand the Lesson
Next, we took the lesson to the 1-year-old room where 12 toddlers, aged 19 months to 2-years, sat in a circle being read to by their teacher. As with any toddler, their explorative nature quickly re-directed their attention to the goodies we brought into the classroom. Ms. Anne quickly regained control of the classroom and moved the children back to the circle for the lesson. With this group, as she opened her book to read to them, she pulled out Lola (her puppet) to help with the reading. The children loved Lola and in a child-directed, teachable moment, the lesson was paused so the toddlers could touch Lola and give her a hug.
The same lesson was taught but expanded upon by the use of the puppet. The children utilized 4 of their 5 senses, covered many areas of focus, implemented fine and gross motor skills, and all in just one quick 30-minute lesson.
Early Childhood Education vs. Babysitting
Being an Early Childhood Educator is far different than being a babysitter. An educator must know what and how to teach, understand the skills and level of development of the children in the classroom, and keep the children safe and properly cared for. A babysitter just has the responsibility of caring for the child and keeping them safe. Before you seek a career in Early Education or choose a caregiver… make sure you understand what the difference is and what is best for your family. The decision you make will have a definite impact on the life of a child.
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Author: Belinda Davis ©2018