Numerate Conversation: Infant to Pre-K
I believe the most important thing I’ve learned being an educator, is to give children more credit than their age would suggest. Talking to kids is a science, an art and a philosophy all wrapped up into one. We are told that babies begin acquiring language pre-birth; in mom’s womb. How amazing is that! Yet, I think many adults only have “real” conversations with other adults. When’s the last time you had a real conversation with a four year-old? Did you ask them specific questions and did you sincerely expect a realistic response? If they gave you a silly response (which they should, they are four after-all) did you probe further to get to some more substantial information?
For those of you who responded 'yes' to these questions,
you have probably come to the conclusion, that children are brilliant!
Now, consider adding some mathematical vocabulary to the conversation.
With a baby 0–6 months, talk to the baby the entire time he/she is awake. Did you poop again? Are you still hungry? Would you like more milk? What should we sing next? Why did you only sleep for 1 hour?
From 6 months until they begin speaking phrases, additional conversations could be about their new accomplishments. For example, babies gain their physical strength, being able to pull themselves up or take steps, so accurately count with them, use vocabulary like up/down and left/right, and congratulate them on their latest feat. At this stage remember to look the baby in the eyes when talking to them and include “wait time” for them to respond. Their type of response isn’t important; it can be a nod, a giggle, a grunt, rarely words, but most importantly, they are learning how to have a conversation and how to take turns. It’s never too early to learn these very important life lessons. As the child learns how to speak, the conversations can become even more fun.
After 18 months:
After 18 months, don’t hold back! Accurate vocabulary at this point is essential. Can you please put the 3 pairs of shoes in the bin? Can you eat that last quarter of your sandwich? Would you like half of my banana? Three more minutes until bedtime. What time should we eat breakfast? How many times did the dog run around the house? When playing basketball, have a two point line and a three point line and keep score! For all of these questions expect correct answers and when they don’t know how to respond, it is important to teach them. No, the time isn’t said one, two, three, two. We say: the time is twelve thirty two. The dots in the middle separate the hours from the minutes. Even if that is the end of that conversation, being accurate and specific every time is necessary for the child’s future comprehension.
Preschool age children are the most fun to converse with; that’s why YouTube videos of them often go viral! They will say the darnedest things. So use their curiosity and eagerness to speak to get real conversations started. How much do you weigh? Can you make pattern with your blocks? When is your birthdate? What year were you born in? Which days of the week does Mommy go to work? Which month is your favorite? Do you have a favorite season? How much older/younger are you than your brother? How much money did you find in the couch? What can you buy with that? Jump over the ball. Hide under the table for 12 seconds.
Correcting their inaccuracies is essential,
you wouldn’t allow them to call milk juice,
so don’t let them call a nickel a penny.
They are soaking up all of these categories of vocabulary.
These words are the foundation of mathematics; therefore, these conversations should occur before kindergarten for the child to have a comfortable academic beginning in kindergarten.