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Early Math Concepts to Teach Your Baby

Teaching Baby Early Math Concepts


Updated June 25, 2014

Baby boy (12-15 months) playing with abacus on ground
Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images

If your child shows early signs of learning disabilities or developmental delays, there are many fun and easy things you can do to build your child's early math concept development and provide important early learning experiences.

Even in infancy, you can begin laying the foundation for future understanding in math. While your child cannot use expressive language to show his understanding, playing learning activities will teach him receptively. You can do this naturally in your everyday interactions with your child. Over the years, your child will begin to internalize these concepts just as he does in learning to speak, walk, and attain other developmental milestones.
  • Teach Your Baby the Language of Math - Use Your Baby's Senses for Learning

    Infants learn by sight, sounds, smell, and feel of objects. Any object they can pick up invariably finds its way to their mouths, so keep all small objects away from your child to prevent choking. Use only toys that approved for your baby's age, are way too large to fit into their mouths, and are made of non-toxic materials. Clean them frequently with non-toxic, child-safe cleaners.

    During your baby's first year of age, use naturally occurring opportunities to visually show and verbally say small numbers. For example, while cuddling, hold up one toy or familiar object in front of your child and say, "one doll, block, bottle, etc." Allow your child to touch the object. Over time, introduce two and three objects, up to about four. This activity can be used to demonstrate early vocabulary as well.

  • 4-12 Months and Older - Introduce Math-Related Vocabulary Concepts

    Use your typical playtime activities to show and say math related concepts such as again, more and less, same and different, and smaller and bigger. Keep your voice playful and sing-song, and remember to model correct language usage. Modeling these words using toys and other common objects will help your child learn the vocabulary and begin developing a non-verbal understanding of quantity, number, and visual comparison.

  • One Year - 15 Months and Older - Introduce Humor with the Concepts "Not, None, Nothing, and Gone"

    Hide a person or toy behind a blanket. Say the name of something you're not hiding. For example, if you're hiding a teddy bear, say "Where's Daddy?" Lower the blanket and show an expression of surprise and laughter. Say "No! That's not Daddy! That's a teddy bear!" Alternately, hold the blanket up and ask, "Where's the toy?" while holding nothing behind the blanket. Pull the blanket away, smile, and laughingly say, "Nothing," "There are none," or "There is no toy." "The bear is gone." Quickly bring the bear or toy back if your child becomes upset that it is gone.

    This game develops observation, visual discrimination, and the concepts of "not, none, nothing, and gone." It also teaches a basic level of humor and encourages your baby to look for ways to solve problems.

  • Age 12 Months and Older - Add New and Rehearse Old Math Vocabulary Words During Everyday Activities

    This is a great game played around the house, at the store, or on any other outing. Point out objects. Say "What is that? What's that?" Say the name of the object and its number. "That is one puppy! There are two babies!" At about the age of two years and older, add more details such as saying the color, size, and any other visible details with the number that present themselves, as in "There are three red balls." This teaches number and descriptive vocabulary and builds vivid visual memories of objects and people and builds on what speech therapists call "wh" questions. Repetition is helpful for memory and creates a foundation for your child to build future learning in math concepts and problem solving.

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