Number songs are a part of growing up! My favourite as a child was 10 little speckled frogs, I would sing it endlessly! It became a family joke and a much-loved party piece. I remember standing on the log, imaginary of course, and waiting for the right time in the song to jump into the water which was in my words, ‘nice-a-cool’.  I am not sure who taught me that song, but I know that I knew it well and had heard it lots before it became MINE!10 Little speckled frogs, hours of fun!

Repetition grows your baby's brain!

As a parent we spend so much time repeating ourselves and saying the same sort of thing time and time again, reading the same book, singing the same song.  For us, it is really dull, for our children and babies we are actually helping to grow their brains! Each time we sing the same song we are strengthening neuronal pathways, gradually help them to have the strong foundations that they need for learning.  But what if, as a parent, we understood how the play that we are doing with our children is going to help their learning later in life, how the small steps they are taking today, that are at times almost invisible, are beginning to build to bigger and better things in life.

How is play helping to build our baby's brain?

So what's so great about three blind mice?

Let’s think about the song that we often sing with our babies, 3 blind mice.  As a new mum, I spent lots of time singing this with my 3 babies.  I would sing the song and sometimes I would add in the mime for the whiskers of the mouse, or I might focus on the blindness of the poor mice by covering my eyes, or the eyes of my child.  Or I might focus on the chopping off, of the tail by bringing down an imaginary knife at the right time and ‘chopping’ as the song says.  All this (unbeknown to me at the time) was helping to build my children’s language skills.  It was building them strong synapse connections with the words and the labelling and the miming and actions that I was doing.

Three blind miceThree Blind MiceThree Blind Mice

One of the other things that I also used this song for was pointing out that there were three mice. I would show the baby that there were three, by showing them my three middle fingers at the right time in the song. This was great as far as it went, but I had missed so many learning opportunities that I just hadn’t realised were there.

Having looked at learning and brain development and found that science is telling us that brain development in the first 1000 days of life, from conception to two years sets the path for all future life outcomes[1]. That is health, emotional and physical well being, economic outcomes as well as academic success and having applied the knowledge I have gained as a primary school teacher of 20 years or so, I now know that there is SO much learning that can be gained from this activity.  If when signing three blind mice you show your baby three fingers as before, using your middle three fingers on your right hand, and then you show them three fingers by having two on one hand and one on the other.  Then perhaps later in the day, you are getting their snack ready and you put three pieces of apple on their plate and say ‘look there’s three’.  Perhaps later still you head to the shops where you see three pears, three mushrooms, and even three tins and you point these out to your baby.  All the time focusing on the threeness of three.  You are in fact doing something called ‘conservation of number’.  Your baby will not get this at the outset, it will take a number of tries and different experiences for them to fully grasp that when there are that many things, it is always called three.

Three pears, are still three pears, what ever shape you set them out in.

So why is all this important?

So why is all this important?  This is something the babies will learn anyway.  Well, it’s important because the more you do this sort of stuff, the more you will find that your baby is getting confidence in the knowledge that three always contains this many.  When they finally get to school, age 5, and their teacher gives them some blocks to count, they will know that they don’t have three, because three always looks like this… and these blocks don’t look like that, there is one more there… so this is three plus 1 which is four… you have helped your child develop confidence in their understanding of number, which is the strong foundation for maths to begin. 

Who would have thought you could get all this from a simple baby song!

If you found this interesting and would like to understand what learning you can get out of the games you play with your baby, or in fact, if you would like ideas of what you can do when playing with your baby that will help them build those strong foundations, why not download the Oliiki app. It gives you an age-appropriate activity to do with your bump or baby from conception to birth.  It tells you what to do, how to do it and most importantly...

WHY you are doing it and how it relates to your baby's future learning.

Download in the app store today. If you have enjoyed this blog, why not share it with your friends, so they too can understand the learning their babies can get from the play they are doing?!

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