Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This evening, as I was mulching the planters by the patio, Z. was playing a game where she would sit on the edge of her digging box (a raised bed that I took out of vegetable cultivation) and then after doing some lackadaisical toddler counting to get up the appropriate courage, she would half-lower herself and half-fall over backwards into it. This made her so filthy that I think those clothes will henceforth be designated garden clothes. (But it's good dirt.)

I was nearby and cheering at each tumble, but not really paying her too much attention as long as she was entertaining herself. Then I realized that this is what I was hearing:

"1..2..3..4..5..6..7..oopsie!" And over she would go.

That's right, my baby girl was counting to seven repeatedly. Counting had become half the game.

And then she got to eight.

I started encouraging her to say it again, and she was so eager to figure out what it was that she'd done that I was looking for that she got all tangled up again. So I decided to get re-involved in my mulching.

And then she did this, three times in a row before we went in for supper:


Let's not quibble about that missing 11. As far as I know, no one has explicitly taught her her numbers. Letters, yes. Numbers, not really. She has long been fond of the sequence 6-7-8, and of course she knows 1-2-3, and recently added four. But putting it all together? Am I right to think that this is not the usual 26-month thing? I'm delighted and also a little intimidated.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I think that is pretty advanced for 26 months. Go, Z!

liz said...


Jenny Davidson said...

Yes, very advanced!

Co said...

I don't know much about the mathematical development of kids under 3, but I took a class with Prof. Herb Ginsburg, whose specialty is early childhood and elementary school math development.

Learning the numbers is a little bit like learning a song for many children. Children might learn the names of numbers, but if they say them out of order, inevitably someone will correct them. So, children start to learn that you have to say them in a special order, kind of like a song (and like the alphabet). Leaving out individual numbers like 11 is pretty common when first learning. But Z. is already demonstrating that she knows a lot. She knows the names of at least 11 numbers and she has figured out that they are supposed to be said in a certain order. (And she added a fun gymnastic element, too!)

I agree that being able to count to 10 is pretty impressive for a child under 3. Z. clearly demonstrated that she can do that.

It's interesting that you say it was part of a game for Z. (Can you tell you hit on something I'm deeply, deeply interested in?) It kind of kills me how if you watch kids learn about math just by interacting with their world, they love it. Then they go to school and it falls apart for a fair number of kids. Why don't more kids love math once they get to school? I'm not talking about when it gets more abstract and advanced. It happens muchh earlier. Many kids who know a lot about addition and subtraction from their interactions with the world get to grade 1 and falter. There are reasons for that, but it's sad. I like hearing about kids enjoying math as they learn about it on their own while they're young. It should be fun.

Go, Z.!

niobe said...

Looks like Z is certainly ahead of the curve on counting. And from your post it sounds like she knows (at least some) letters as well.

slouching mom said...

Yep, I'd say she's on the upper end of that dreaded bell curve.

S. said...

Thanks for the nice reinforcement of what I think I'm seeing.

Co, of course you'd be into this! Duh, me. This was a game for Z. because she was really just entertaining herself with it--it messed her up when I asked her to perform, but when I took the pressure off, she kept going because she was having fun figuring it out.

It's interesting the connection you make to songs, because the time I regularly eavesdrop on her "alone"-time is when she's eating breakfast in the dining room and I'm on the other side of the pass-through in the kitchen. What she does then is sing herself songs and make up words. (This is the way A. and I find out things like: the day-care repertoire includes "Bushel and a Peck.")

Niobe, I used to sing a slowed-down version of the ABC song for Z. at bedtime, as a transition into the real lullabies. Z. has put the kibosh on this by saying "ABC won't calm me down" every time I try to start it, but I think that's because she knows the fast version better now (darn you, Laurie Berkner!), so it really doesn't calm her down. Alas.

At school the infant-toddler classes aren't supposed to have the alphabet up in the class or emphasize it in the curriculum because it's not "play," but they have a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and one of the teachers, who understands how just how literate this group of kids is, has made up a game for them using the alphabet endpapers of the book.

So in what I think is an age-appropriate way, Z. has been explicitly taught the alphabet, and she does recognize most upper-case letters visually, and identifies more and more letters as initial sounds in names (even ones she doesn't encounter in daycare).

Seeing as how her parents and male progenitor are a bookstore owner, and English teacher, and an English professor (=Uncle Donor), I assumed she would be ahead of the language curve, really from before her conception. (I know, I know, no pressure there ... but consider the odds!)

Howmsoever, I don't think she's done anything beyond nursery rhymes to learn numbers.

As I get these glimmers of how sharp Z. is, of course I project forward into school days, but right now learning for her is no different from play. When we ask her what she did at school, she tells us "play, play, play, play, play." I would love to preserve that for her straight through adulthood.

(Phantom, I can't say she's doing it fish-oil free, because she gobbles down the DHA supplements. The graphics on the label have earned them the unfortunate moniker of "strawberry-fish vitamins.")

(un)relaxeddad said...

Definitely impressive! Dudelet's just started wrestling with the mysteries of 13 and beyond ("12, 16, 20!") but he's at 40 months. We actually taught him to count in the hope of teaching him to tell the time. Didn't work.
Love the image you paint of her working at the counting with such concentration - play is such a serious business...