SJ and I are English teachers. We are always reading, and we spend a lot of time engaging with written, spoken, and visual texts. Arty is read to every day, he sees me writing all the time, and is fascinated by letters and words. I feel pretty confident that we have his budding literacy pretty well supported just by virtue of being the kind of people we are.
Numeracy, on the other hand, is something I get pretty anxious about helping him with. I am terrible with numbers (like, to the point of being pretty sure I have some degree of dyscalculia), and I’ll avoid doing anything mathematical as thoroughly and assiduously as I can.
But Arty doesn’t share my numerical aversion. He’s fascinated by numbers. He regularly asks me things like “Mama, what does a one and a two and a four and a six make?”, and I have to rack my brains to add them up without a pen and paper.
He sees numerals everywhere too. He likes his toast cut into two strips so it looks like an eleven, and just yesterday he noticed a band of light shining on the floor through the window and exclaimed that there was a big ‘1’ on the floor.
I want to encourage and support this interest as much as I can, but in order to do so I feel like I need a little help from some well designed props.
When Jessica from Mama May I sent us her “Count With Me” play set last week I did a little air-punch of joy, because it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.
It’s pretty, it’s tactile, and it’s got a huge range of uses in developing numeracy through play.
The set comes in a wooden box, and is made up of little wooden plaques with the numbers one to ten on them in both numerals and text, and 55 carved wooden counters (enough for each plaque to be assigned its corresponding amount).
The counters are so useful in helping kids develop a fuller and more meaningful concept of what numbers actually mean. When we play with them, we’re using words like tall, short, long, wide, many, few, and as we do so we’re hanging these concepts from concrete tactile and visual experiences.
I particularly love the way the counters have been designed to stack easily, so that little hands that are still mastering fine motor control can handle them without any trouble. It’s little differences like these that make all the beautiful products at Mama May I a bit special. My other favourites are this pattern board, and this sensory colour sorting play set. Everything in the shop gives a sense of having been designed thoughtfully and carefully by someone who knows and loves kids.
If you think your wee person would like playing with a Count With Me set, you can get one here.
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