Initial warning – this is a bragging post about my eldest and how clever he is, thinly disguised as a question about what other children the same age do.
Now that’s out in the open I can get on with the post. Nathan has been fascinated by numbers for some time now, and he was counting up to 9 using his stacking cups about a year ago. We could (and often do) use his interest to persuade him to eat when he has a food refusal (lets eat 10 spoons. here is number 1. now there are 9 left. etc etc).
More recently, Nathan got beyond 10 into the teens, and onwards towards 100. One of his story books has 157 pages and they became the basis of a game called “where is the number?” I’m sure you can guess how it goes, and with only a little encouragement about which way to turn the pages, he became familiar with two digit numbers. He particularly likes the 80s and the 20s. He could even find pages where the numbers weren’t labelled – on title pages for each story, or on picture pages.
He started counting to himself to soothe himself too – mostly when he is lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Over the baby monitor we would hear him saying to himself “twenty one, twenty two, twenty three” etc etc. At church there is a snakes and ladders board marked 1 to 100 and last weekend we found an older boy asking Nathan where particular numbers were – with no coaching or prompting he knew every single one and very quickly too.
Then there were the trains. We live in DLR territory, and Nathan loves trains. When I took Nathan on the DLR he started shouting out numbers. I thought he was saying random ones, as I could not spot the numbers he was saying – they were not platform numbers or the number of minutes on the train countdown. Then I noticed them – small numbers painted on the side of the carriages that identify the train itself. He was spotting them across 2 platforms.
The latest trick is counting backwards. It started with the Numtums on Cbeebies – at the end of the program the numtums file out one by one, starting at 10 and getting down to zero. Today when we were eating we mentioned number 26 in conversation – I can’t remember exactly why – and Nathan started counting backwards from 26. He got every single number correct, all the way down to zero, then finished off with “bye bye numtums”.
I am, of course, very proud that my only-just three year old can count up to 100 and down to zero from at least 26, and has a love of numbers. My degree is in maths, so its lovely to think Nathan might have the same interests one day. Plus its nice to think he is clever at some things, especially given his difficult start and developmental delays in other areas like speech.
Whilst i’m welling up with pride, another part of my brain is a bit worried. I mean, it’s a bit geeky isn’t it? A three year old (2 years 10 months corrected) loves numbers so much that he counts himself to sleep. That he’s already a bit of a train spotter – and not just “look mummy train” but actually noting down the carriage numbers. That he not only knows and can read all the local bus numbers, but guesses them from the engine sounds (double deckers are D7s, singles D8). I could be raising the next Einstein, but what if I’m raising the next Sheldon Cooper?
So, is this normal? Do other children got through this phase, and if so when? And what (if anything) should I do about it?