Infant Cognitive Development: Learning To Recognize Numbers

An infant can learn to recognize numbers as part of thier cognitive development.

An infant is any child that is between the ages of birth to 12 months old. Their cognitive developments vary greatly from month to month and they develop at a fast rate. Typically it has been thought that a child will learn their numbers in preschool or kindergarten, but the process actually begins with infants. An infant might not be able to recite or tell you the meaning of numbers but the process for learning them is still there.

An infant's focal point is only 8 inches away from its eyes, about the distance from your eyes to his or hers when cradling an infant in your arms against your chest. Keep this in mind when you are interacting with your infant. Infants respond well to touch, so anytime you can hold an infant or touch them while interacting with them you will be creating a bonding experience as well as helping along their cognitive skills. Infants also learn by using all of their senses, meaning that while we may tell what an object is simply by using only one of our senses an infant will use all of their senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. This is why infants invariably either shake or eat everything they come into contact with.

One to Four Months:

By the end of the 1st month an infant can make eye contact and hold it briefly and by the end of the 4th month they can follow objects with their eyes, but only if you are in that focal point region. At these early stages try singing songs to an infant that deal with counting in the lyrics. Rhymes or songs such as "This Old Man," and "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" are great examples of songs with numbers in them. Also try holding your fingers up to an infant as you say or sing the numbers. Within that focal point region an infant will lock gaze with your fingers, follow them with their eyes or even reach up and grab them. Large blocks with numbers on them are also a good toy to use with your infant. Let them hold the blocks while you recite the numbers. Or, you can trace the numbers with the infant's finger as you say the numbers.

Four to Eight Months:

Between the ages of 4 and 8 months you will see dramatic changes in all of the skills an infant possesses, including but not limited to their cognitive skills. An infant at these ages will start to play hand-clapping games such as "Pat-A-Cake" so all those rhyming songs you were singing early on will be a constant favorite. However, now you can add an element of clapping or slapping legs as you recite each number. Combining the sound of the number with the physical act of clapping is a basic form of teaching a child mnemonics, the art of improving or developing the memory. Also by this age an infant will more readily explore objects placed in their hands. Show the infant a number on a block or in a book, recite the number and hold your fingers up to show the quantity of that number. You can also give them objects and count out each object as you hand it to them.

Eight to Twelve Months:

By now you will have noticed that your infant barely resembles the infant in the first month. Your infant will be sitting up, playing with others and playing more actively. Also, an infant will be making babbling sounds as a way to communicate. Infants in the earlier months may make cooing sounds and, of course, cry to get attention or to express emotions, but an infant at this stage is actually trying to follow simple verbal patterns. Again, those songs you have been singing since they were born will still come in handy. However, now you can sing slower and have your infant try to repeat the numbers. Their words may come out as unrecognizable to you but they are trying to mimic the sounds that you have just made. Another thing that you can try is to recite the number scale and let them try to repeat each number you have said. You can also get large crayons or markers and while an infant holds the crayon or marker you hold their hand and write large numbers on paper. An infant in these stages will love to see the result of what they have drawn. This also gives them the feel for the shape of numbers and will aid them in the toddler years when they will start practicing writing them. As an infant plays in groups of children you can also count each child in the group. This allows them to recognize the quantity of numbers in a form that they can relate to. Or, as you hand an infant a snack count out each cracker or cookie that you give them. An infant will quickly learn that certain numbers deem a higher quantity of an object. In reverse, try having an infant hand you a certain number of an object. Praise them if they do it correctly and correct them (not admonish) if they do it incorrectly.

Remember, not all children develop at the same rate and cognitive skills cannot be forced but rather encouraged. By applying all of the above techniques on a constant basis your infant will learn the cognitive skills needed for number recognition.

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