Toddlers learn to count earlier than we thought

By 18 months, your baby can recognise basic maths, finds new study


By the time a toddler is 18 month old, they can recognise basic counting, a small study in Australia has revealed. Basically, it seems that tots understand the principal of counting before they actually show any ability to count themselves.


The study involved Australian and Japanese toddlers, who were shown videos featuring a hand pointing to six fish, with verbal counting. The children preferred the videos that showed the hand correctly counting the fish with the verbal commentary, not the videos where the hand moved between just two of the fish and didn’t match the counting voice.

The preference for the correct counting videos was found with 18 month olds, but not with 15 month olds. Also, when the counting was in a different language, the toddlers’ preference for the right counting didn’t exist.

“These findings demonstrate that humans begin to learn to count earlier than previously thought, based on exposure to their cultural counting routine,” said the researchers.


“Children begin to count some time after age 2 and their skill develops over the next several years. But before then, infants witness many instances of counting demonstrated by parents and older siblings, or portrayed on television,” explained Professor Virginia Slaughter, from the University of Queensland, Australia.

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