Toddlers can learn numbers while putting puzzles together.

Activities to Help Kids Recognize Numerals

by Karen Hollowell

Math and reading skills are the two most important academic areas for toddlers and preschoolers because they form the foundation on which all other learning is based. Fortunately, parents will get the help of teachers when their kids begin school, but they are definitely not off the hook for their children's knowledge. They have a lot to do to get their young ones ready. Number recognition is one of these foundational skills. A child will have a greater chance of succeeding in math if he begins kindergarten already knowing how to count, write and recognize numbers zero to 20. Parents can choose from many activities that aren't difficult and expensive, and they may have some fun themselves.

1. Numbers While Reading

Reading books to children provides many benefits. Parents and child spend quality time together, children hear fluent reading and increase vocabulary and hopefully fall asleep soon afterward so tired parents can rest. Parents can use read-alouds to teach number recognition. Among many children's favorites is "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle in which the a caterpillar turns into a butterfly but eats his way through a different number of foods each day. There are also online sites with stories parents can read or which have audio already available. As these stories are re-read, and toddlers and preschoolers look at the pictures with numbers, they will remember them and recognize them later.

2. Number Poems

Rhyming is fun activity for young children. It's also a effective phonics skill, but they don't have to know that yet. Nursery rhymes are traditional poems, but many of them contain numerical references. Parents can read these to their toddlers and preschoolers then write one on chart paper and hang it in a prominent place so it will be seen often. Some popular nursery rhymes that contain numbers are "One, Two Buckle My Shoe," "Three Blind Mice" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep."

3. Numbers In The Environment

Children often do not see the connection between the skills they learn and their practical application. Parents can help them with this by teaching number recognition in items that are located in the home or in the nearby environment. For example, parents can reinforce number recognition to toddlers and preschoolers by pointing them out on water bottles, cereal boxes and the tags of their pants and shirts. When driving, parents can ask their child to find certain numbers on speed limit signs or on billboards. If they have more than one child, maybe these activities will keep them from fighting during an extended trip!

4. Internet Activities

Parents might think that computers are too difficult for a 3- or 4-year-old to navigate, but this is precisely the age that children can become more adept than adults. Once they learn the basics, they can learn a variety of skills from online games and activities. Under parental supervision, young children can click on numbers as the game requests, count items in an interactive story and find number matches. Any of these activities reinforce what parents and teachers do at home and in the classroom.

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