Saturday, November 9, 2013

Number Sensitivity Begins Early

Here’s another detour from my traditional topic of baby sign language. Human infants come into the world looking for things to count. Mother Nature, it seems, figured out eons ago that if the human species was going to reach its full potential in this domain, she’d better arrange for the process to begin as early in life as possible. Given every human baby’s natural sensitivity to numerosity, it’s ironic that so many adults have grown oblivious to how pervasive numerical information is in everyday life. As a result, many parents overlook easy ways to give babies food for thought in this very important domain.

It’s easy to make numbers an obvious feature in any activity that involves repetition. Take the ever popular tickle game. The tendency for most people is to engage in triplets: “Tickle, tickle, tickle!” Try repeating the tickle triplets five or six times in a row, and then abruptly change to sets of two. Or do the opposite. The idea is to surprise your baby with this sudden change in quantity. You may not get an outward sign that she’s noticed, but trust me, she has. This same strategy can be applied to lots of different activities: blowing raspberries on your baby’s tummy, bouncing him on your knee, shaking rattles, splashing bathtub water. Almost any simple action that makes your baby smile can provide grist for the number mill!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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