My son, Tristan (3.5), has been exposed to letters and numbers regularly from when he was about 13 months old. Why is that? I teach the manual alphabet and numbers to the parents in my signing courses and they are repeated over and over again. The reason why I make the manual alphabet and the numbers a routine in my classes is that all of the signs I teach are based on a letter in the alphabet or a number. While I teach the parents, their children are also exposed to seeing the various hand shapes and hearing the letters and numbers as we sing the alphabet song and various nursery rhymes featuring numbers.
Before Tristan started going to a daycare centre at the age of 2.5, I always took him along when I was teaching baby signing. For a long time he was fascinated with the letters of the alphabet and he often asked me to sing the ABC song for him. At 2.5 he was able to sing the song himself in English (with his two primary languages being German and Dutch). A little later he developed a fascination for numbers. When reading him a bed time story, he was more interested in the page numbers than the story. For about a year now, he knows that during the weekend we don’t get up before the clock shows 8:00. When we call granny, I give Tristan the numbers and he dials.
Last week his granny taught him a game involving a regular dice, i.e. with dots indicating the numbers 1 to 6. It took Tristan only a few rounds of playing before he recognised the numbers without counting the dots. Every player starts with 8 wooden pegs. When I played with Tristan 2 days ago, he grabbed a handful of pegs for himself. I asked him how many pegs he had. He counted to 5. Then I said, ‘5, that’s right. How many do you still need?’. Without too much thinking, Tristan responded, ‘3’. I was speechless. During another round he gave me a handful of pegs and I counted 6. Again I asked Tristan, ‘How many do I still need?’ His answer: 2. No one had ever taught him to calculate. His little brain never seizes to amaze me.
Before he really got into numbers, he was fascinated by the alphabet. Watch him sing the ABC song at 2 years and 5 months.