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Toddler learning - letters and numbers

(42 Posts)
GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 10:20:11

My DGS is 2 3/4. He is showing interest in numbers and letters and I want to get him some toys to encourage his learning. I was going to buy him counting cubes, but they are a little small for him (choking hazard and he is only 2). I AM going to buy magnetic letters for his easel.

Has anyone else got any ideas? I am not with them at the moment, although from the summer, I am returning to the UK and will home school him on non-nursery days (supposing nursery is covid safe by then) so ANY ideas are welcome.

Thank you!

NotSpaghetti Fri 15-Jan-21 10:22:32

Google Montessori equipment - really great quality learning items if genuine. They are particularly good for early years.

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 10:23:42

Great, thank you!

PaperMonster Fri 15-Jan-21 10:38:42

Duplo bricks with letters and numbers written on them. You can get foam letters and numbers for the bath which stick to the side of the bath or the wall.

Sarahmob Fri 15-Jan-21 10:47:41

Gagajo lots of primary schools use numicon to reinforce counting and recognition of what a number of things looks like. It’s available from Amazon but IMO any wooden building blocks to make a tower are as effective at securing the concept of number. A plea from a practising primary school teacher regarding the magnetic letters however, please source lower case as opposed to capitals as this can introduce conflict in the reception class when lower case letters are the ones ‘taught’.

grandMattie Fri 15-Jan-21 10:50:14

I couldn’t understand why my children could count to 13, such an odd number. I realised that we counted the stairs! Count the peas on their plates, the number of hula hoops on their fingers....

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 10:59:02

Yes, lower case Sarahmob, I am on that one. GrandMattie, he can count to 10, our number of stairs! He counts the birds on the roof opposite. It is more number recognition we're going for now. And letters too.

I am in the middle of making him a counting toy since I couldn't find what I wanted, and it stops me missing him quite so much if I do things for him.

Grannynannywanny Fri 15-Jan-21 11:10:49

GagaJo my 4 grandchildren loved a learning toy they had from around age 2. I think it was made by Leapfrog. The back of the device was magnetic and stuck to the fridge as were all the letters. When a letter was clicked into the front of it the device recited the letter eg “b is for ball” then it would sing a little verse using the word ball. There was a choice of buying it with upper or lower case letters.

They loved it and it was in daily use. A very sturdy toy that was often dropped and came to no harm. When my first 2 grandchildren were finished with it they passed it on to their little cousins and it was used for another couple of years before ending up in the charity shop still going strong.

Grannynannywanny Fri 15-Jan-21 11:17:13

This looks like the device here. I’m not affiliated to Leapfrog and I’m sure other companies have similar!

Auntieflo Fri 15-Jan-21 11:56:58

Do they still have Flash Cards? Our youngest loved them, and learned very quickly.
Of course they may now be out of favour, I am not up to date with learning for little ones.

M0nica Fri 15-Jan-21 12:03:27

My two loved the Ladybird 'all about' series that had number recognition and counting activities. They also loved those big very rough paper books with colouring, counting and number recognition pages. They would spend an hour at a time, just colouring and counting.

Take him shopping , again my two woud walk round reading the prices on things. When they were starting to read, car journeys consisted of them reading every road sign we went past.

kircubbin2000 Fri 15-Jan-21 12:22:04

My 4 year old gs is enjoying his brothers home schooling!

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 12:26:22

Haha, kircubbin, when I was teaching from home in lockdown 1, my GS would burst into the bedroom where I was working periodically and make an appearance, much to the delight of my Year 9 students in particular.

He did the same when I was in a meeting with my new head teacher and blew her a kiss, the charmer.

NotSpaghetti Fri 15-Jan-21 12:28:42

Montessori uses cut-out sandpaper letters and numbers so you can trace the shapes in order to form them correctly.
These are something you could make, glued onto card.

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 12:29:19

Why sandpaper NotSpagettic? Muscle memory?

grandtanteJE65 Fri 15-Jan-21 12:30:47

It has become fashionable to let children learn numbers and letters as soon as they show an interest, which on the face of things is a good idea.

BUT what do the schools in your area think of it?

Through most of my life as a school-child and later as a teacher, schools took a very dim view of children learning to read and write at home, as a lot of them had been badly taught and it took ages to correct their faults.

Those who could read, write and count were bored at school for two or three years until the others caught up.

By that time most of the early starters had decided school was boring and stopped trying to learn.

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 12:35:12

I'm not sure my grandson will be able to read early. We have a very big family history of dyslexia.

GS has delayed speech, which is an indicator that he will acquire literacy late, so want to encourage any interest he has shown. He has the 4 letters that make up his name in magnetised letters, and can put them in order unprompted, so I want to give him some other games things he can do too.

I don't have a lot of knowledge about how to help young children. Teenagers are my forte, but low ability students I have taught are best taught in 10 minute blocks. So far, that has worked OK with GS.

Children in lockdown need a LOT to keep them amused. I think anything that does that, that isn't TV is good.

MaizieD Fri 15-Jan-21 12:44:50


Why sandpaper NotSpagettic? Muscle memory?

That's right.

Sue Lloyd did something similar in Jolly Phonics.
I'm not sure how useful it is as you use different muscles when you write the letters with a pen/pencil, but at least it should help to instil the correct way to form the lower case letters.

I'd stress being particularly careful with the formation of b & d because those are the two that children get very badly confused (also p & q, but not quite so much). Letters should always be formed from left to right, so the order for forming it is ascender first, then the 'ball', whereas for d it is 'ball' first, then ascender. I have had so many Y7s who start both letters with the ascender and then have no idea which way to go next. It makes me so cross because they'd have no problem if they were properly taught from the first!

And all those little 'tricks' for eliminating b/d confusion don't really work because the child forgets them when they're concentrating on the content of what they're writing. The 'confusion' is a long instilled habit. We know how difficult it is to break habits...

Also, if forming or tracing letters try and get the child to say the main sound it represents as they do it.

Never teach letter names, they're not needed at this stage and it will get in the way when they start learning to read and spell. So, /b/ for 'baby, not /bee/ etc.

M0nica Fri 15-Jan-21 12:45:47

grandtanteJE65 if a child wants to learn to read and count before they start school there is very little you can do to stop them. Both DH and I were fluent readers before we started school, just from having mothers (it was wartime) who read to us. It was the same with our children. Our son was actively uninterested in numbers until the day he walked round the supermarket reading all the numbers on the shelf and both children's approach to reading was similar.

I had very good relations with both children's primary school teachers, they had no difficulty in dealing with children coming to school with every level of ability from those who had never seen or held a book to those who could read fluently.

The following remark absolutely floored me Those who could read, write and count were bored at school for two or three years until the others caught up. I did not know teachers still thought like that. Again a good teacher should always be able to deal with a class whose abilities go from one end of the spectrum to the other.

My children both benefitted from excellent teachers who used their interests to give them more complicated and difficult tasks and exercises than others in the class.

They were not exceptional geniuses, just among the group that made the top 10% of the class they were in and such groups exist in every class in every school.

MaizieD Fri 15-Jan-21 12:48:30

Through most of my life as a school-child and later as a teacher, schools took a very dim view of children learning to read and write at home, as a lot of them had been badly taught and it took ages to correct their faults.

Ha ha grin

It works both ways, grandtanteJE65 . Sometimes they're very badly taught at school! I spent years helping 11+ yr olds who'd been taught reading rather badly in school...

HillyN Fri 15-Jan-21 12:52:54

How about some wooden puzzles with number or letter shapes? They can be fun even if you don't push the educational bit. Duplo blocks as PaperMonster said, (we have the train-see photo) or how about watching the 'Numberblocks' programme on CBeebies?

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 12:59:04

He has the duplo train. I am making him laminated A5 numbers on a page, with various coloured 'dots'. 'Read' the number, count the dots and place on the page.

I like the sandpaper number / letter idea too.

His mum has bought him magnetic letters & numbers and I will add to it with the toy grannanannywanny suggested as well.

I might make him some flashcards too. He had ones that I had made to help him learn the names of things and to encourage his speech. It is also good to take screenshots on an iPad and to flick through those. But he is a bit past that now.

NfkDumpling Fri 15-Jan-21 13:00:22

Our lot all enjoyed Orchard Toys. (Many have been stowed away as heirlooms when outgrown). And, a point in their favour, if you loose a piece from their games they will replace it free of charge (up to three times)!

NfkDumpling Fri 15-Jan-21 13:01:49

Oh, and they also have free activity sheets you can download.

GagaJo Fri 15-Jan-21 13:06:00

I love Orchard Toys NfkD. GS has a LOT of their jigsaws and he is starting to be old enough for their games too.

Melissa and Doug toys are good too.