My son is 18 months old, and very bright, though I admit extreme bias in this case. My husband and I were judged to be very bright as well, but we suffered in school when it came to math. We want to give our son the best start in life without being overzealous parents who torture their child with flashcards practically from the womb.
What can we do to help promote an understanding of, and a love for math without making it tedious? What we are doing so far is reading him counting board books, singing songs involving numbers, and doing the "2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?" cheer for him, which he adores. Is there anything else we can do? At what point do we add some formal activities or toys? We don't want to become "those parents" who's zeal has squeezed the fun out of learning.
Thanks in advance!
From: MP, Framingham, MA
Admirable goals you've got, but be careful. It's easy to become "those" parents.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that because he loves the "2-4-6-8" cheer, he's learning concepts about numbers. He loves it because you're engaged together, because you're making it fun. A child who hears "Goodnight, Moon," every night might "read" along. Does he really know anything about reading? Not exactly, but he knows something about literacy. He knows that books go from left to right and, if you point to the words as you read, he will learn that you start to read at the top of the page and go to the bottom.
Similarly, incorporating numbers into his life in a fun way is a terrific pre-math skill: counting out the beans on the plate, or the toys on the floor, or the fingers on his toes. Would I do it at every meal? No. Not at every play time, either.
As for toys and activities, if what you're asking is when is it time for "Baby Einstein" and the whole slew of computerized materials that promise "smart" children, my answer is never. If you're asking about tired and true, hands-on toys and activities -- toys with inter-locking parts and toys that open and shut (which teach about cause and effect), take your cues from him. It's time to introduce new toys or activities when it's clear he is tired of or has mastered the existing ones. And remember: less is more. (See "Hothouse Kids" by Alissa Quart, although if you're going to read only one book, make it "Raising Lifelong Learners," by Lucy Calkins.
And oh, wait! I almost forgot: blocks! Probably the single, most-important pre-math toy around.
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