Observe the child counting with an adult during daily activities or in the outdoors.
If the adult does not spontaneously request counting, ask them to request that the child count something with which they are engaged (e.g., food, blocks, books, outdoor items such as leaves or sticks, etc.). For example, the adult can ask the child to “go find as many pretty leaves as you can.” Comment on how lovely they are and line them up in a row. “Count them so we can see how many you found.”
Observe how the child counts. He will point to each of the first few items and count with accuracy, but after the number four or five will lose the correct number sequence or the one-to-one counting approach. It is difficult for the child to do both the counting and the one-to-one correspondence at the same time once he has reached the number at his highest level of understanding. In other words, the child’s meaningful counting shifts into rote counting.
Emphasize the importance of meaningful versus rote counting. Parents often ask their child to perform (“Can you count for me?”). Help them to understand that counting actual objects using pointing helps the child learn the meaning of the numbers. Children are more motivated to count if they have a reason. For example, “We need one napkin for each plate. Can you count the plates for me?” Also, encourage parents to give children divided containers, such as egg cartons or fast food containers for play. This encourages dividing and counting and gives parents a reason to ask “how many…” questions. For example, how many red poker chips did you put in that section?”
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 2015
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