3,2,1,Fun! The Importance of Beginning Numeracy with Everyday Activities

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Who remembers saying “I don’t like math” or “I’m not good at math”? Many adults have negative feelings about math that began early in life.

A positive outlook on numeracy skill building with your children will help them later in life. In fact it can change your outlook as well. You don’t have to be completing complex algebra equations in order to be practicing numeracy skills.

In the 3,2,1, FUN! program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy, comments from parents have reflected some of the initial anxiety they feel towards numeracy and teaching it to their children. One parent stated how she felt math was scary and that she could never teach it to her children. She avoided anything she thought related to math prior to attending the 3,2,1, FUN! numeracy program. Upon finishing the program with her child, she said she now feels much less stress, and is more prepared to positively explore numeracy development with her children; she has a better understanding of the relationship between early numeracy learning and continuing success in school.

The parents and their children meet once a week to learn about the many everyday activities in which we use numeracy skills. When we estimate the cost of groceries, count the days leading up to a special event, follow a recipe, measure material for a sewing or building project, or even give directions, we are using numeracy skills.

These real life situations make numeracy meaningful for children, and are important in helping them build strong numeracy skills for later math learning. Part of our program enlists the parent as the teacher as they work alongside their children, participating in activities that are developmentally appropriate and supportive to the individual children.

Having a good foundation in numeracy means that we have an understanding of numbers, shapes, and measurement, and how they relate to each other. We learn to ask questions, solve problems, and share ideas. This numeracy understanding helps us become better communicators and problem solvers and allows us to participate fully in our communities.

Children benefit when we show them that numeracy is part of our daily lives and we use it all the time. This familiarity with various numeracy concepts, and children’s own experiences with everyday math, will help them become fluent math thinkers. It will prevent anxiety about more formal math learning when they reach school.

If you would like more information about the 3,2,1, FUN! drop-in program, visit the Centre for Family Literacy website. I can guarantee you will have fun with your children exploring numeracy together.

Positive early experiences in mathematics are as critical to child development as are early literacy experiences (Alberta education, 2007).

  

Conversations with Babies

Baby loveThere are behaviours that babies are born with, like reflexes and how they are naturally drawn toward faces, but if you want your baby to grow up into someone who can tell you things and understand the things you tell them, then you need to talk with them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you chat with your baby:

  • Babies aren’t very talkative to start, but they are excellent listeners
  • Share your thoughts with your baby, talk about the things you are doing, or tell stories
  • Even before their first words, leave room for them to respond, and reply to their babbles and coos to help them learn about the pattern of conversation
  • Speak and sing to your babies in however many languages you speak. Babies are super good at picking up additional languages if they are learning them from the people in their lives
  • Babies don’t always want to talk. If they look like they’ve had enough, give them a break
  • On the other hand, don’t ignore your baby when they’re trying to talk to you. When you respond, you are letting them know they’re on the right track for developing speech
  • Maintain eye contact and use facial expressions
  • Babies are using cues from your lips and mouth to learn about the sounds coming out of your face. They are simultaneusly learning to lip read!
  • Use expression in your voice, as much as your baby loves you and your voice, there is still such a thing as too boring

An extra note about that last point. You’ve probably noticed that people sound different when they talk to babies. They’ll use a high energy sing-song voice that usually makes babies smile. There are studies that show this helps babies to recognize the differences between different speech sounds, which is pretty cool. You might try to tone it down, but there’s evidence that we all do it on some level.

On another level, it’s one of the many ways that you can show your baby that you are engaging with them personally. You are reinforcing that back and forth communication with your baby is foundational for language development and brain development in general.

What works best for you? Does your baby particularly like entries from your old high school diary, or your celebrity impressions? Let us know in the comments!

You might also be interested in a Books for Babies program offered by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Here’s a link to the webpage.