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Early Numeracy a Guide for Parents

Early Numeracy

A guide for Parents

It’s not just about numbers

The idea of mathematics for pre-school children can seem a bit daunting. However, at this age a lot of maths is about understanding ideas such as size, shape and pattern, things that most adults would not think of at all. If your child gains an early understanding of these concepts, then this can give him or her, a flying start with number work.


Give your child opportunities to notice and recognise the different shapes around them. Use proper names when talking to children about 2D and 3D shapes and encourage them to find things in the house with the same shape.  Describe the shapes, count the number of sides and corners, talk about flat and curved edges. Look at road signs and discuss the different shapes you see.


Children enjoy counting real objects. Counting stairs as you climb them, count buttons on clothes, count the number of apples into a shopping bag, count “pennies” in a money box and save up to buy something.

Make up little games and ask your child to fetch three books, 4 spoons or do 5 claps, 2 jumps etc.

Draw children’s attention to numbers in everyday life. Look for numbers on cars, buses, clocks, houses and telephones. Play number 'I spy' in the supermarket.  Show your child how to write numbers in a tray of sand or salt.

Play dominoes and dice games.

 Counting Rhymes

Recite nursery rhymes such as '12345 once I caught a fish alive' and read counting books such as, The very hungry caterpillar by Eric Carle.


Helping lay the table encourages children to notice pattern, ie. 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 spoon, 1 plate in each space.  Create repearing patterns with lego bricks- 2 red, 1 white, 2 red, 1 white.


Playing matching games with pairs of socks, shoes, gloves and picture cards can be fun. The ability to match lids to pans and tops of bottles is useful too.  Play snap.


Talking with your child while doing an activity will help him/her develop vocabulary of words which describe positions eg. Front, back, up, down, over, under.


Sort objects into categories, eg beads buttons or toys. Look out for certain colours, e.g. How many red cars do we see on our walk? Sort according to size, shape and function. 

A collection of seasonal items is useful for developing sorting skills e.g. Leaves in Autumn, shells in Summer, cards at Christmas. Encourage children to notice similarities and differences between things.


Talk to your child about events in the day, morning, afternoon and night.  Mark dates on a calendar and count down the dates until that day.  Use language such as today, tomorrow and yesterday.  Use sand timers or digital timer to measure how long.

Measuring and weighing

Children like to help with cooking, let them measure ingredients with a cup or spoon and watch you using the scales to weigh and balance. If possible set the time on your cooker to beep when food is ready, this will help make your child aware that it sometimes takes a length of time to cook food. Use words such as big, little, long, short, heavy, light, to describe items when you are shopping for food and clothes.


Gather information and make a chart.  How many red cars in the street, how many blue cars?  What is your favourite food?  Do you like hot chocolate? Yes or no?  Use tally marks, stickers or objects to record your information.  What does the chart tell us?

More information can be found at the link below.

Parentzone CfE