In fact your pre-kinder student has already begun developing a range of mathematical behaviours which will support their numeracy development.
These emerging numeracy skills, like all milestones will develop within the context of opportunity and repetition at the individual pace of your child.
A pre-kinder child is familiarising themselves with numbers
At this age children are beginning to become familiar with numbers in two main ways, recognising numerals and basic counting aloud.
From the age of three children are commonly holding up fingers to represent numbers. However most parents can recall their child holding up four fingers for the numbers two, three and four! This is because cognitively at this stage of development number familiarisation is all about sequence rather than the final total. Parents make the assumption that because their child can count to say five that their child is aware the final number of objects is five. Research in Early Childhood demonstrates this is not yet the case. By the age of four children have learnt sequence and are now familiar with the concept of quantity showing the correct number of fingers. Encourage your child’s 1:1 counting by helping them touch each object only once when counting piles of items.
By the age of four many children are counting to 10 or beyond, however parents need only be concerned if their child is not able to count to four by this age. Most four year olds are counting all by beginning from one. Some children may be able to count on by ‘seeing’ the objects as being made of two piles and counting on from the larger group. eg “I have six here and there are some more so six, seven, eight, nine – my total is nine objects”.
A pre-kinder is observing, comparing and contrasting objects
The ability to make an observation of an object, compare it and contrast it to another is an important mathematical skill which preschoolers develop and can be shown to support numeracy development. Many preschoolers will practice this skill by exploring patterns. Patterns in the formal school years are not an area of numeracy, but in the preschool years can be grouped together. Times tables, skip counting and addition all link to an understanding of identifying and continuing a pattern. You can encourage your child by pointing out patterns in their world around them from tiles on the floor, fabric patterns on their clothes to the varied and fascinating patterns on animals whether it be the scales on a snake or stripes on a tiger! Preschoolers should be given opportunities to ‘read’ their pattern and create their own.
A pre-kinder is sorting and classifying objects
The other important pre-number skill for preschoolers is sorting and the awareness of same and different. This helps when looking at totals and amounts of objects. Household chores are an easy way of supporting this skill. Encourage your child to help you sort the laundry (or do the family sock sort)! Tidying up their rooms can be an opportunity to sort toys by physical attributes – for example, the number of eyes for dolls, wheels on trains, etc.
A pre-kinder should be exposed to counting books
The preschool years are a fantastic time to combine literacy and numeracy with wonderful children’s counting books. There are numerous classics such as Eric Carle’s “1, 2, 3 to the Zoo”, “How do Dinosaurs Count to Ten” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague as well as David Kirk’s “Miss Spiders Tea Party: The Counting Book”. All of these picture books are engaging while reinforcing their counting skills in a fun way! If your child is highly motivated by using the computer then Learning Planet has simple numeracy games for preschoolers which are free to parents.
The preschool years are not about success or failure. Preschool is a special period in your child’s development which enables you to teach your child to take joy in learning.