Developing Early Math Skills in A Baby

Building math foundation is essential for children's life skills. It's like building a strong foundation for a house. Children needs to have a good foundation to math in their early age.

In their early years, we can introduce Math concept to children like:

Number Sense

The ability to count accurately forward from 1, 2, 3, and so on. In the later age, they should also be able to count backwards. A more complex skill to number sense is the ability to see the relationship between numbers, like adding and subtracting.


Making mathematical ideas by using words, pictures, symbols, and objects (like blocks). For example: putting 4 plates on a picnic mat for 4 persons.

Spatial sense

Introducing the ideas of shape, size, space, position, direction and movement. In school, later this concept is known as "geometry".


Technically, this is finding the length, height, and weight of an object using units like inches, feet or pounds. Measurement of time (in minutes, for example) also falls under this skill area.


This is the ability to make a good guess about the amount or size of something. This is very difficult for young children to do. You can help them by showing them the meaning of words like more, less, bigger, smaller, more than, less than.


Patterns are things—numbers, shapes, images—that repeat in a logical way. Patterns help children learn to make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections, and to use reasoning skills.

Problem Solving

The ability to think through a problem, to recognise there is more than one path to the answer. It means using past knowledge and logical thinking skills to find an answer.

To note, math skills is only one skill among other skills that children need to develop - like language skill, physical skill and social skill. Those skills need to be stimulated accordingly.

Fun Ways to Stimulate Math Skills in a Baby

Alula is now 1 year old. She begins to walk, talk few meaningful words, and understand few commands. I think it's time for us to start to develop her early math skill. Since Alula is still very young, I will incorporate the concept of math through songs and play to make it more fun. Here is what we will do to stimulate her math logic:

1. Peek-a-boo
This is played by covering your face with your hands and then taking them away. This teaches your baby that even though she can’t see your face, you are still there.   Peek-a-boo also teaches the concept of object permanence.  According to Piaget, this makes babies become more observant and notice similarities and differences between objects.  This experience leads to more advanced math concept such as sorting and classifying. This simple game also teaches your baby the complex set of rules about turn-taking and expectations.

2. Patty-cake
This is a hand-clapping game where you and your baby alternate between a normal individual clap with 2-handed claps.  This simple sequence of clapping teaches your baby about the mathematical concept called patterns.  It is the first step to understand that the world works in logical and predictable ways.  Experiences with observing and making sense of patterns help your child become a logical thinker.

3. Music  and rhythms
Games with your baby that involve music teaches him mathematical concepts.  You can play a musical game that involves rhymes with your baby. Give your baby a wooden spoon or a rhythm stick.  You should have a stick too.  Sing a song such as “The Wheels of the Bus” and tap the sticks to the beat of the song.  Encourage your baby to tap his sticks too.  Sing the same song faster, and tap your sticks faster, then slower and tap your sticks slowly.  Your baby will understand the concept of fast and slow, as well as develop in his brain the concept of pattern.

4. Dropping Toys and Picking up
Babies love to drop things.  You can take advantage of this behavior by playing pick-up with him.  Let your baby drop a toy from his high chair.  Put it back.  Chances are baby will knock them off again.  This teaches your baby the concept of sequencing.  Sequencing is the organization and order of successive events and experiences. Recognising sequences help children develop a sense of order, logic and reason.  Your baby will enjoy this sequence of events because the predictability of your action is enjoyable.

5. Pop-up play
Pop-up play is played with toys that have characters bursting out of a hatch when a button is pushed.  It build’s your baby’s fine motor skills.  Also, this is another way of teaching your baby object permanence.

6. Wooden Puzzle Jigsaw Pieces
Introduce your baby to the simple, basic easy-to-do puzzle with one-piece or two piece wooden puzzles with knobs.  Talk to your baby as he tries to pt the puzzle pieces in the puzzle.  If necessary, help him to put the puzzle together.  This game also teaches your child spatial relationship skills.

7. Sorting Toys
Playing with your baby with toys that you sort by colour, shape, size or thickness teaches him classifying skills.  Classifying introduces the mind to the mathematical concept of sets.  Classification schemes are also important for your baby to learn early as they are central to scientific thinking.

8. Creating towers
Babies love to place one object on top of another.  Play with your baby by building towers made of large blocks, boxes, plastic bowls, bowls and other materials.  What’s even more fun is when she knocks down the tower.  This teaches her spatial relationships, as well as differences in  sizes and shapes.

9. Stacking rings
Stacking rings are good, old-fashioned simple toys that babies enjoy playing.  It consists of a tube and rings of different sizes that a baby can insert in the tube in any order.  Play with your baby by stacking rings from large to small or from small to large.  This teaches your baby the concept of seriation.  It is a mathematical concept that involves organising or ordering things in a logical way.

10. Tunnel time
Babies love to crawl through small spaces, and in the process learn both spatial and body awareness.  Providing them with toy tunnels or space fort that they can crawl through teaches them these, as well as the mathematical concept of spatial relationships.  This leads to them understanding more advanced concepts to follow involving directionality, position in space, and depth perception.