As an adult you probably take numbers and counting for granted, but all of us had to be taught about numbers at one stage.
Learning numbers and how to count is an important skill for young children, so many parents are understandably keen to teach their toddler numerical skills from an early age.
But when exactly should a toddler be able to count to 10? And what about 20?
And is there anything parents can do to teach their toddler about numbers?
Let’s take a look.
When Can Toddlers Count To 10?
As with most things related to development, toddlers naturally learn and develop at different ages, so there is no right and wrong answer as to when a toddler can and should be able to count to 10.
On average, most children are able to count to 10 between the age of two to three.
However, many younger toddlers don’t fully understand the concept of the numbers and what they relate to, but are rather repeating the numbers from memory.
This is known as rote learning, which is based on the concept of memorizing information through repetition, rather than understanding.
Can 2 Year Olds Count To 10?
If you are wondering whether a 2 year old can (or should) count to 10, the answer is – it depends.
Many toddlers aged between two to three years of age can “count” to 10, or at least know all the numbers between one to ten.
However, there is a difference between saying numbers out loud and actually understanding the concept of counting.
So while a lot of two year olds may indeed be able to repeat the numbers one to ten (although usually in the incorrect order), this is often because they have memorized the sounds and patterns, instead of truly grasping what each number means from a practical or applicable sense.
Can 2 Year Olds Count To 20?
For some reason many parents out there think that a 2 year old should be able to count to 20.
While a gifted child might be able to count to 20, this is definitely not the norm, because typically the age at which a child can count to 20 is between three to four years old.
How High Should A 3 Year Old Count?
By the time most children reach the age of three, they are able to “count” to 10, but this is likely because they have memorized the sequence and sounds.
However, a typical 3 year old can count the numbers up to 3,4 or 5, and has an understanding of what these numbers really mean.
So for example, they can identify three of something, and know that three is more than two or one.
How High Should A 4 Year Old Count?
By the time most children reach the age of four, they are able to (or close to being able to) count to 20.
Many four year olds often get stuck when reaching numbers in the teens, and are particularly prone to jumbling or skipping the numbers 13, 14, 15 and 16.
Interestingly, most four year olds cannot fully comprehend how larger numbers correspond to the related quantity.
So in terms of truly understanding the meaning of a number, it’s typical for a four year old to genuinely be able to count between 4 to 10 items – for example if you ask them to bring you exactly 5 coloring pencils, they should be able to.
How To Teach Toddlers Numbers
If you are keen to introduce a better understanding of numbers into your toddler’s life, the good news is that there are definitely some proven ways and helpful tips to teach numbers to 2, 3 and 4 year olds.
Here are 5 ways to teach numbers to toddlers:
1. Count Everything You Do
Whether it’s counting steps when walking on the sidewalk or counting each step up and down the staircase at home, everyday life is full of opportunities you can use to teach your toddler about numbers.
Other examples include counting how many pieces of meat or vegetables are on their plate, counting how many legs are on a high chair, how many wheels are on a stroller, or counting bricks or other toys.
2. Listen To A Counting Song
Many of us are all too familiar with the famous nursery rhyme about those little monkeys jumping off the bed!
The great thing about this song is you can act it out using other objects like soft toys or loveys in your child’s crib, so your toddler can better understand how many animals (or whatever it may be) fell off the bed, and how many are remaining.
Your toddler is likely to love this routine, which should make the learning fun and help keep their attention for longer.
3. Read Number Books
As a parent we are fortunate that there are plenty of awesome books out there that can help teach toddlers numbers.
The good thing about reading number books to your toddler is that different books can engage children in different ways – whether it’s by using colors, their favourite Disney character, or sensory learning using touch and sound.
So with a bit or trial and error and thinking about what your little one may find interesting, you should find a number book that can help with their learning.
4. Get Help Setting The Table
If your child is a little older, then enlisting their help in setting the table is a great way to build their understanding of numbers.
Asking them to take out of the drawer and place three or four spoons or napkins on the table is something you can get them to do day after day, and this repetition should really help when it comes to teaching numbers.
5. Check Their Understanding
Lastly, as their teacher, it’s important to check your toddler actually understands and grasps what you are trying to teach them.
The best way to do this is by asking them a question.
So in the example above with the toys or five monkeys on the bed, take the time to ask your toddler how many toys are on the bed, and how many are on the floor.
These simply questions will help you assess your child’s understanding and whether you need to slow down, speed up or if your pace is just right.
It’s also good to remember that given a toddler’s short attention span, you should opt for shorter “lessons”, and if they become distracted or disinterested, it’s best to move on and try again later.
Teaching your toddler about numbers can sometimes be challenging, but it’s well worth it.
The best way to teach toddlers numbers is to incorporate the learning into everyday activities and to make it as fun as possible, which will ensure you keep your child’s attention long enough for them to take it the lesson.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that all children learn and develop at different speeds, so there’s nothing to worry about if your little one cannot count as high as other children.
Although easier said than done, try not to put pressure on yourself or your child, and instead enjoy the journey during these beautiful toddler years.
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