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Helping your child with letters & numbers

Helping your child with letters & numbers

It makes sense to get your child used to numbers and letters from an early age. That way, once she starts school she'll feel confident about reading and counting in front of the class. You will find that during everyday activities you naturally talk, sing, count and introduce letters and numbers to your toddler.

It's important not to push your 3 or 4 year old into doing things which she is not ready for. If you give her the idea that learning her letters and numbers is a difficult and serious business, then you could find that she loses interest altogether. But if you make learning a game, and are ready to stop whenever your child seems bored, then she should find the whole experience a lot of fun. It's quite usual for lively pre-school children to pester their mums to 'play' numbers and letters with them!

Start early

It is never too early to get your child used to the idea that particular symbols represent certain sounds or values. You can start by pointing out to your toddler that certain letters make special noises. When she's having her breakfast, for instance, you can show her the letters on the cereal packet and make the appropriate sound. Or when you are out shopping ask her to help fetch certain things (for example, 2 boxes of cereal) from shelves. Don't worry that she doesn't seem to understand what you're doing. And don't make her feel bad because she isn't very interested. Children learn gradually and through constant repetition. Although she may not seem to be taking anything in, she is actually getting used to the idea of the alphabet.

Children love learning peoples' names. One of the first words that they learn to use is their own name. Soon they become very interested in the names of their brothers and sisters, as well as those of their parents. Showing your child how her own name is put together is guaranteed to get her interested in letters. Try putting her name up in as many places as possible, say on her bedroom door, or on a special cup and get her to put her name on drawings. To introduce your child to writing, have her trace over letters and simple words. Often, older children become fascinated by their middle name and surname. You may find that they are very particular about you always writing out their full name!

You can also vary the way in which you play letters with your child. Fridge magnets, consisting of letters that can be moved around the door, are a fun way to get your child used to the alphabet. Suggest she try spelling her name. Try only to use lowercase letters and try to avoid using capitals as much as possible.

There are some very good educational television programmes aimed at pre-school children. Check the listings and make time to sit down and watch the programme together.

If your child can't remember a particular letter, try not to jump in and supply the right answer straight away because she won't get the chance to work things out for herself. Instead, remind her what sound the letter makes and suggest a word that begins with it. Visit Jolly Learning Singapore to find out more about more about the foundations for reading and writing.

Counting

You can start introducing your toddler to the idea of numbers. When you're feeding her you can point out that she has two potatoes and lots and lots of peas. You can remind her that she is playing with three dolls and that she has got one sister.

Fingers make excellent counting games. You can ask your child how many fingers you are holding up. When she is a little bit older, you can put your hands behind your back and get her to guess how many fingers you are holding up.

Children love learning patterns, so most of them will take quickly to the idea that 1 is followed by 2, which is followed by 3 and so on. Quite soon your 4 year old should be counting up to 10. If she gets a number wrong, don't laugh at her or criticise her. In these situations children have a habit of saying the first number which comes into their head!

Instead, ask her if she can remember what number comes after 3. If she can't, then hold up four fingers for a few seconds before giving her the right answer. Again, jumping in too quickly will deprive your child of the chance to learn for herself.

Once your child knows her numbers up to 10, you can start to play counting games. Ask her how many chairs there are in the room. Get her to tell you how many potatoes you are putting the saucepan. You can keep her entertained on car journeys by asking her how many red cars she can see.

The process should be fun for both you and your child. If, early on, your child finds learning fun, you will be setting her on the road to enjoying reading, counting and learning in general.