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Eitan Waks

How to begin math/English with a 1.5-year-old

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I live in a bilingual household. All of our surrounding as well as my wife speaking Hebrew however I grew up in the United States and have fluent English. In addition, my accent an American accent. It is really important for me to educate my daughter, especially with regards to languages. I believe that English will be indispensable in her future and would really like it if she were to be able to pick up English as if we were living in a country with speaks English. I know that that is not possible however I would like to do my best.


Any suggestions on how and what to do with a 1 1/2-year-old? That is, apart from speaking with her and reading to her?


I really would like all the help that I can get as I am not a natural at parenting.


Thanks for all the help,



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You speak with her and read to her. At this age, that's it.

Sing her English children's songs, too.

Best way to achieve bilinguality is One-parent-one-language. That means you should exclusively speak English in the child's presence.


When she is a few years older,  you can add audiobooks and videos.

When she is school age (6-7), teach her to read and write.

But for now, just talk.

Edited by regentrude

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You may or may not already be doing this, but in addition to speaking with her, narrate what you are doing. Don't wait until you have something to say to the kid, simply narrate (in English) what you are doing and what she is doing. It causes the total number of words your child hears to go way up.


"I'm thirsty. I'm going to walk into the kitchen and take a glass out of the cabinet. Then I'll put some ice in from the freezer and add water at the sink. Nice and cold!" Sure, you can do that without saying a thing, but this way your daughter hears all those words.

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The others covered English language pretty well but as for starting math with a toddler, count everything in sight.


Count her toys as you play with her, count cars when you are driving, count clouds in the sky, count stairs as you walk up them and count them backwards as you walk down them, count rocks, flowers and leaves she collects outside, collect with her and compare how many you each collected, for example "You collected 5 pretty blue rocks and I collected 4 pretty red rocks, which of us collected more? Wow, you did! How many more rocks do you have than me? Let's line them up and see!" Then line them up side by side to show that she has one more than you because you don't have a match for her fifth rock.


Walk through oral word problems with her. "I cracked one egg into this bowl. Now I am adding one more egg, how many eggs are in my bowl now? Let's count them and see, one, two, I have two eggs in my bowl."


Talk about ordinals with her when you are narrating what you do and when you see things lined up, "Which car is first in line at the stop light? The red one! What color is the second car at the stop light?..." Play games with her that work on position words like above, below, beside, behind...,


Introduce the idea of fractions with by discussing halves and wholes. "I'm cutting your sandwich in half. See, now you have two pieces of sandwich that are the same size. Your two same size pieces of sandwich put together are the same size as my whole sandwich." Do the same thing with quarters and thirds. Break a cookie into two pieces that are not equal and talk about how it is two pieces but they are not halves because they are not equal.


Introduce coins and money to her when she shows an interest. Name the coins and their value. Count change out loud for her when you get a chance. Let her have a piggy bank she can put coins in. Give her a coin or two now and then to put in her piggy bank and let her buy small items with her money when she has enough.


Of course some of this is far too advanced for a toddler but start talking about this things as you go about your daily routine and in your play with her. You are introducing ideas at this age, not explicitly teaching them. Do not quiz her on any of it at the toddler or preschool age. If she can't remember what comes after two when she counts or forgets the name of a coin or can't identify which item is second, tell her and move on. You are not looking for mastery at this stage, just constant exposure to ideas and terms she will use later.

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I actually don't count with young children, because I prefer to reinforce the ability to recognize amounts without having to count them.  I'll label quantities (Oh, three cars!) but I wouldn't say, "See, four steps, 1, 2, 3, 4!"


So that's an option too... ;)



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