I often hear people ask about the best time to teach their children basic skills and concepts like colors, shapes, and counting. This always seemed like a very strange question to me, and that’s probably because I never considered any of these as things I had to “start teaching”.
The internet is full of helpful tips, materials, and activities to teach these things, but honestly I usually recommend that people skip all of those, and try something a little more stealthy…
One of the very best things you can do for your kids is talk to them. As much as you can stand. Especially with babies and young toddlers, a running narrative of your day will help them build vocabulary and language skills, and help them to develop an understanding of how things work.
Well here’s where the stealth comes in. I consider myself a very intentional person. I put a lot of thought into the things I do and say, and like to get the most out of my effort. I’ve found that a couple little changes can make a big difference in your child’s learning.
1. Include the color and shape as you talk about objects.
When you’re playing with your child, or cleaning up, or getting them dressed, or any time really, try to include those extra descriptive words.
“You have the blue bear”, “Tonight you are wearing your green pajamas. They have circles all over them.”, “You’re eating orange carrots and white rice.”
Try to include these as often as possible. Repetition is the key to all early learning, and you will see your child start to pick up the concepts.
2. Count as you go.
This seems like a no brainer. And honestly, most parents do count with their children at least at some point during the day. But the key here is intentionality and repetition. Intentionality and repetition.
Challenge yourself to see how many opportunities you can find in a day to count something with your child. Or near your child. Blocks while you stack. Balls as you throw. Legos as you clean up. And don’t worry about it being a game or even having their full attention. Just count out loud again and again. Early rote counting skills are all about memorization of those number names and sequence so they need to hear them over and over again.
You can also try randomly counting out loud for no good reason while your child is nearby (ok, you have a really good reason, but they don’t know that). While you’re driving in the car, making dinner, waiting by the potty, you get the idea.
Remember, you don’t have to go crazy and count to a thousand. Start small. Just count up to five until that seems really familiar, then go to ten. Keep increasing gradually as you and your child feel comfortable with the bigger numbers.
3. Look for opportunities.
As you go about your day, especially when you are out and about, look for examples of whatever it is you’ve been focusing on. As you spot objects, point them out to your child simply and casually. There’s no need to beat them over the head with it.
“I see a yellow sign”, “That ball is red, just like your shirt”, “The floor tiles are green squares”, “I hear counting in this song”, “The cashier is counting our yogurt as she scans it. I will too.”
Your objective in doing this is to increase exposure to the names and visual qualities of the objects around you, as well as helping your child to see that colors and shapes can be found all around them, not just on a puzzle.
By looking for examples in real life, your child will actually become more skilled at recognizing shapes and color because of the natural variations that are found with objects and shades of color. You may discover that your son is excellent at naming shapes in a puzzle, but doesn’t recognize that the door is a giant rectangle, or the tiles are all squares. Or maybe he recognizes royal blue, but is stumped when he sees baby blue or navy.
Share with us!
Do you have any stealthy ways of sneaking these concepts in throughout your day? What has been successful with your family? We would love for you to share with us!