Teach Children to Count Before They Can Speak

June 11th, 2010by Jessi Arias-Cooper

Teach children to count
Parents can give their youngsters a significant head-start if they take some simple steps to teach children to count before they ever step foot into a classroom. Your son will appear to be a miniature Einstein if he starts preschool with the ability to count.

If you feel intimidated by the teaching process, take a deep cleansing breath and hear me out. It’s really as easy as one, two, three (bad joke, totally intended). You already have the tools to teach children to count; it’s just a matter of sneaking them into your day to day activities.

Teach Children to Count from an Early Age

Generally, children won’t verbally count along with you until they are around two years old, but you can introduce the concept well before then. They may be speaking Baby-Babblese, but they’re listening in English, and their little brains are like knowledge-hungry sponges.

Your mind would totally be blown if you knew how much Jr. is understanding and retaining. Take advantage of this time now. Not only is he a rapid learner, but he hasn’t learned the ancient, offspring art of talking back (trust me, it comes soon enough). Introducing counting concepts while he’s a dinky dude will nourish his need for brain-food and it won’t even feel like work, for either of you.

Baby’s Body: The Abacus He’s Born With

There’s no need to spend a ton of dough on fancy-pants teaching tools. Your baby is born with the best counting device on the planet, his body. One button nose, two sparkly eyes, ten wiggly fingers…you get the picture.

Using his natural abacus to teach him to count comes with two added bonuses:

  • He’ll learn that numbers aren’t just clever words, but actually represent values
  • While he’s learning to count, he’s also learning about his basic anatomy

These are both concepts that teachers are looking for at preschool evaluations. Your little wonder will be throwing off the curve, right from the get-go. Take a bow. You’re on your way to the coveted “My child is an honor student” bumper sticker already.

When to Teach Children to Count

The best time to teach children to count is during diaper changes and bath time for four reasons:

  1. You’re already engaged in an one-on-one activity
  2. All of his cute little digits are already out and about
  3. He’s naturally playful at this time and you’re his favorite toy
  4. Your baby is less likely to try squirming away if he’s focused on you

Extra-mega-super bonus: If you use bath time…you’re also teaching him how to bathe himself. How’s that for awesome?

Two Basic Ways to Teach Children to Count

Bath Time

Wash his hair and face first. These are usually a baby’s least favorite parts of bath time. Very few infants like getting their faces wet. Thrashing and general resistance do not a teachable moment make. Your efforts are better spent on soothing than worrying about numbers.

Body washing time is counting time. Once the not-so-fun bathing requirements are met, you can move on to some splash-tastic learning. The technique is simple:

  • Wash him in the natural order you want him to learn to bathe himself in (head to toes)
  • Use a playful tone and happy, silly facial expressions as you speak (remember, this is a game)
  • As you wash each part, count and name the body part (1 cute tummy)
  • Pair like parts together (1 ear, 2 ears-1 arm, 2 arms)
  • Get detailed (name elbows, heels, shoulders, etc.)

After your water-baby is clean, let him splash around and enjoy some free play-time.

Diaper Changes

Tickling your baby is practically a natural response to seeing his sweet little toes, chubby tummy, and chunky baby-thighs. You can use this built-in play time to teach basic counting skills, as well as cuddle and bond.

Once you’ve conquered the malodorous stink-bomb and all is right with the world, spend a minute or two playing and counting. The idea is very similar to the bath time counting technique, except it’s easier to kiss fingers and toes when you’re not worrying about all that pesky drowning stuff.

  • Say each body part as you count (sound familiar?)
  • Kiss or tickle the parts (you can even throw in the occasional raspberry) while you’re counting (babies like the warm-fuzzies of loving touches)
  • Vary your concentration with each change (count parts of the face one time, fingers the next)
  • Keep it silly (even babies learn better when they don’t feel they’re being taught)
  • Get detailed (is there an echo in here?)

Multi-tasking is a parent’s best friend. If you can goof around while you’re carrying out your everyday care AND educate your precious little ones, you’ll feel like a world-beater. Using daily activities to teach children to count can be as entertaining as it is valuable for everyone involved.

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5 Responsesto “Teach Children to Count Before They Can Speak”

  1. Philip @ RAOPon June 11, 20107:47 pm

    We did this with out even thinking about it. Our two oldest could count to 10 by the time the turned 2. I never thought of it as abnormal, just what they did. I do wonder what the long term benefit is though. Sure we can teach them at an earlier age, but does it all even out by the time they turn 5 or 10? I can help but wonder.

    As it is, we did this and it can work. Our son also new his right and left and North, South, East and West not much past his second birthday for the same reason. We used the terms around him whenever we could. Regardless of long term benefits, it is a blast watching them grow and learn.
    Philip @ RAOP´s last blog post ..Summer Camp Season

  2. Fozzon June 11, 20109:34 pm

    You are absolutely right about their minds being like little sponges. If you have a bilingual house or know a second language they can pick these up as well.
    The more you can teach them without sitting down and “teaching” the better they will be.
    Unfortunately, we slacked off on kid number three and now that he is four you can see a big difference between levels of knowledge between our others kids at his age.
    Fozz´s last blog post ..If you register your site for free at

  3. Tia
    Twitter: loanmarketplace
    on June 30, 20103:30 pm

    Excellent! My son learned to count at a really early age, too, although I have to credit daycare for that. He is two now and just loves counting. It still makes me smile to hear him count a little bit when he’s singing to himself.
    Tia´s last blog post ..How Do New Private Student Loan Trends Affect Your Family

  4. Janelleon January 17, 201112:55 pm

    We played lots of counting games in the pre-school years. Now that we’ve moved onto kindergarten we play a lot of games with ten frames and dot cards.

  5. Consperacy girlon February 28, 20117:05 pm

    Kids are very curious,i have a younger brother that really want to learn many things like writing basic letters and numbers i can see that he is eager to learn make it perfect.

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