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Early Learning Skills: Help Your Baby Learn Math Through Conceptualization

It’s never too early to start teaching math skills. In fact, young children develop basic math and literacy skills from the moment they are born. Through everyday experiences and interactions with you and other trusted adults, babies can develop an understanding of basic addition and subtraction. 

Many parents have a misconception that they should start teaching math once their child is in school, but you can begin building a strong mathematical foundation with your baby way before that. By making a conscious effort to involve your children in various activities, you can help them learn to recognize patterns, count numbers, and gain a sense of time.

Here are some activities for babies that can help teach them math while you go about your daily activities without breaking out a calculator!

How Parents Can Incorporate These Early Learning Skills At Home

Language is Key

We use basic math language every single day! We speak to our infants or toddlers about math ideas, using words like “more”, “empty” or “full” all the time without realizing it. These comparison words help to teach your baby measurements.

When our baby hears us giving out directions from a map this is teaching them the concept of spatial relationships and when we count or figure out team scores this teaches numbers and operations. Babies show their understanding of these concepts in little ways, all the time. For example, by asking for more cheerios when their bowl is empty.

By using math talk, we make the math that happens in our daily lives more visible to our children and gives us countless opportunities to deepen their understanding of math concepts. The more math you talk, the better! 

Here are some examples of what you can say to your baby:

  • “You have two ears and so does your bear. Let’s count them: 1-2-”
  • “Your nap was very long today!”
  • “Your cheerios are round and your crackers are square!”

Number Sense

Besides language, another basic child development skill is the ability to count accurately. There are endless ways you can show your child how to count. Again, with cheerios, you can count them as you are giving them to your child. You can also ask them to count their toys with you. The possibilities are truly endless.

To make things a bit more complex, you can teach children the relationships between numbers using addition and subtraction with different objects by asking your child how many cupcakes remain after taking away one? How about how many are left after taking away two?

There are so many opportunities throughout the day where providing your child with knowledge about quantity can be incorporated. Including: 

  • During diapering routines talk about how many eyes they have, nose, toes etc.
  • As you dress your baby pointing out using counting: “first we are going to put one leg into your pants, second we are going to” etc.
  • Setting the table by counting out loud how many place settings you need for dinner
  • Counting out loud how many toys of a certain type are in the toy box 
  • Cleaning up “I need to pick up these two blocks-one block two blocks…”

Concept of Time and Transitioning

Instead of moving onto the next activity without a transition, you can let your baby know that “in five minutes we are going to eat dinner”. This helps them start to conceptualize time and place meaning behind it. You can even use an hourglass or timer to help them develop a more concrete sense of time. 

Recognizing Patterns

Recognizing or creating repetitions of objects, colors or sounds can help your baby understand patterns and predictions. Patterning is the basis of all mathematics and develops the beginning of logical thinking which will help your child understand how high order math works. 

When you see a pattern, for example, a striped shirt, point it out to your child. This will help foster an understanding of how to conceptualize what comes next. Musical experiences also provide rhythmic patterns that your child can act out as they move to the beat. 

Learning Shapes and Sorting Skills

Learning shapes helps your child recognize both letters and numbers. By becoming familiar with shapes your child will be able to start recognizing other signs or symbols. This also helps them form spatial relationships and learn basic geometry.

You can help by getting your toddler to sort different objects into piles according to shape. Adding in the element of color can also help your baby think about the characteristics of objects and helps them establish the groundwork for logic-based thinking. 

The environment in your home provides you with endless opportunities to develop your baby’s early learning skills. Make math talk a part of your routine by talking to your baby about shapes, patterns, sizes and describing how things are similar or different. 

Math talk enriches learning experiences for both babies and toddlers and you will be surprised at how much they know and have the capacity to learn. Simple math talk today can help your baby be successful in math as they get older.


As your child is playing, help estimate how many by saying “I wonder how many toys will fit in this bin? I think (say how many toys). Let’s count and see.”


Patterning is the basis of understanding the concept of all mathematics and organizing information. It develops the logical thinking needed for later high-order math work. Musical experiences provide the beginning of this understanding as babies use their bodies to internalize the understanding of sequence and patterning as they move to the music. Try listening to different types of music for a variety of beats to follow.

Provide Your Child with In-Home and On-Campus Early Learning Opportunities

At Vivvi, we strive to create an environment that not only fosters learning and growth but reinforces healthy habits over time. Vivvi’s inquiry-based Learning Model helps children to engage in early learning by building a curriculum around their interests. We believe this emphasis on their best traits and interests builds their confidence and helps them develop a lifelong love of learning.

Contact us here to meet us online and learn more about our New York City campuses and In-Home programs. We can’t wait to meet your family!

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