My eldest son Kai started nursery last September and looking back now I think I was a bit naïve. I assumed they'd just play all day. When I went to my first parents evening, I was shown a file of 'work' he had been doing. I say work; he had been learning to write his name, basic Maths (counting etc.) shapes and storytelling. The feedback I got was fab, except they said to me that he was not so good with Maths as the other children the same age and had some difficulty recognising numbers. At first I thought 'well shouldn't he just be playing?' but then I got a little worried and didn't want him to start falling behind so early. I decided to start a Maths for children course run at my local Sure Start centre. It is a course specifically designed for parents to learn what their children will be learning from nursery through to year four, and to help parents develop their knowledge and skills so they in turn can help the child at home. Here I'd like to share with you my top tips to help improve your child's Maths at home.
Make it fun
Without wanting to state the obvious, children don't learn if they are not having fun at the same time. A lot of adults find Maths boring but make sure you show your enthusiasm and interest in what they are doing as children learn by example. Sing number songs and combine learning Maths with their favourite activities. For example, count how many toy cars they have in their collection or how many outfits their favourite doll has.
Get them active
On the Maths course we had to design and make our own game up to take home and play with our children. My four year old is always on the go, as most children are, and his attention span isn't long enough for him to sit and play an actual board game. So I decided to combine a game with being active. I literally painted two dice. One had numbers on it and the other had an exercise drawn on. He rolls both dice and does the exercise for the number of times he has rolled and he loves this, he plays it all the time! You can either copy this idea or make up your own; something you know will keep their attention.
Have activities around the home
Think about ways in which you can encourage your children to learn simple Maths at home. Here are some examples. You can put a banner in their bedroom with the numbers one to 10 on it. You can encourage them to learn their age by writing the number and sticking it on the fridge. You can have a multiplication table on the dining room wall. There are lots of things you can do; you just need to be creative!
Let them get their hands dirty, even better if you join in. I mentioned the dice game I made earlier. Well why don't you make your own game with your child. They will feel a sense of achievement after making it and are more likely to want to play. It will also be something that fits their level of knowledge as they will have told you want they want to include in the game.
Take them shopping
Shopping trips are a great way to help develop a child's Maths in so many ways. You can allow your child to weigh the food, count the cash, add up the total, work out the change given and even learn shapes, e.g. an apple is round, and bread is square.
Read books with numbers in them
There are lots of books on the market now that combine learning Maths with reading and the good thing is your child doesn't have to do anything except listen. You can also plan an outing to the local library together and let them choose their own books.
Many children find Maths to be very boring unless you make it fun but you can encourage them to enjoy it if they are praised and recognised for their efforts. Make sure that you always tell them how well they are doing and how proud you are of them.