When I had a new baby, I can honestly say I never once thought about maths! Shocking, I know, but I didn’t!!!! 😉 

Well, it turns out that perhaps I should have done! Quite possibly, I SHOULD have packed a maths activity in my hospital bag! Well if not in my hospital bag, I should have thought about doing maths things earlier than I did.

Because research shows that the level of maths skills that a child demonstrates at the beginning of schooling are a strong predictor of later achievement. 

But what do we mean by ‘maths skills’? Are we just talking about being able to count? What other skills are important? How will these skills help my child to learn? How do I help my child to master these skills before they start school? And when on earth should I start thinking about all of this stuff?


These are all important questions.


Is maths understanding just about counting?

Counting is probably the most obvious maths skill that we would all think about and it is certainly one that is the easiest to teach our children. The best way to do it is to make the counting relevant to your child. For example, count the stairs as you go up to bed. Count the number of toy bricks your toddler is playing with. Count the number of apples you are putting in the shopping basket. Keep the counting grounded in real life and in concrete examples that your child can see and often touch, and this will help their understanding to grow. It is a gradual process which takes time – so don’t panic if your little one does not seem to be interested or involved in the counting. Just keep it playful and fun.


When should you start to count with your baby?

From day one! It is never too early to start to count with your child. Children are naturally curious about the world, but they need adults to help them to make sense of it. By counting with your baby and your toddler, you are demonstrating a really important skill – and they’ll be learning from you. You don’t need to count everything – that would be very tedious! – but add a bit of counting into your daily activities with your child. Keep it fun, keep it grounded in real objects and you’ll find that your child will soon be counting along with you. They may not understand numbers yet, that’s ok, but every little bit is helping them build their experiences of number.


What other maths skills are important?

There are so many – such as shape, measure, problem-solving, patterns and spatial awareness – and we will look at them in future blogs. 

But, a skill that is closely linked to counting is something called ‘conservation of number’.  This just means that a child is able to recognise that the quantity of something does not change if the same quantity is rearranged in a different order. For example, if you give your child 5 chocolate buttons on a plate, and they count that there are 5 buttons, and then you rearrange the buttons into a different pattern, if they have a good understanding of conservation of number, they will realise that there are still 5 buttons. The number does not change however they are arranged on the plate! Eventually, as their understanding of number grows, the child will just ‘know’ that there are still 5 buttons on the plate without even checking! Another way that a young child might be able to grasp this concept is by realising that 3 apples is the same number as 3 toy bricks. The number 3 is constant even though the object changes. It all seems so simple to us, but to our babies, this is a HUGE concept to grasp and one that will really impact their future understanding of maths.

Until recently, it’s been generally accepted that this skill does not develop until about the age of 7, but recent research is suggesting that this may not be the case – and that even babies have some understanding of conservation of number! If you are interested in the fascinating research behind this you can read more here.

You can help your child with their gradual understanding of the conservation of number by bringing this concept into their everyday lives and making it ‘real’ to them. Just remember to keep it playful and light. 


Keep it fun. Play with numbers.

We are not talking about giving your child lessons in maths! This is not about maths worksheets or writing numbers over and over again. This is about bringing maths into play and everyday life. Have fun with it and you’ll be helping your child to grasp this concept.

A child that does not have a good grasp of conservation of number won’t be able to subtract or add well as it won’t make sense to them. So, this is an important foundation to lay for your child whilst they are young. If they understand conservation of number, they will find the more complex ideas of subtraction, multiplication, and addition easier to understand when they get to school. So by doing these simple things on a daily basis from the beginning, you will be helping them to prepare for their learning in the future.

The power of play is amazing, isn’t it? 


The Oliiki programme not only gives you a library of 1000+ simple, age-appropriate activities to do with your bump, baby or toddler, but it also tells you why you are doing them and how they relate to future life learning. That helps build your confidence which helps you know that you are doing the right thing to help your baby develop to their full potential. And the best thing of all, because the Oliiki programme has been written by teachers, parents and education researchers and is grounded in research and evidence, you can sit back and enjoy the play that you are doing, safe in the knowledge that you really are doing the best you can be for your baby. Download it today and take advantage of our 7-day free trial. 


As Ann-Marie Dibiase explains;

“Mathematical experiences for very young children should build largely upon their play and the natural relationships between learning and life in their daily activities, interests, and questions.” 

Very young children learn mathematical concepts through play. They learn through experience. They learn through their daily life activities.

 They depend on you at this stage to help them learn, as you can see, doing tiny things can make a massive impact.  If you want some help with things to do, the Oliiki programme is here for you! Download it here and take advantage of our 7-day free trial.