Here at Kidadl, we're big fans of Numicon and its multi-sensory approach to learning. One of the popular teaching resources in primary schools, Numicon can also be used at home and is a fantastic way to introduce younger children to numbers and maths.
What is Numicon?
Created by Oxford University Press, Numicon is a range of resources that can be used both to introduce your pre-school child to maths and to support primary school children as they progress to ideas of more complex number relationships.
Numicon is a set of brightly coloured shapes, each representing a number from one to 10. The number that each Numicon shape represents is indicated by a set of finger-sized holes. For example, the number one Numicon shape has one finger hole and the number 10 Numicon shape has ten holes.
Numicon resources provide an innovative approach to maths that helps children to visualise numbers and understand the connections between them. Maths is an abstract concept, so teaching your child about numbers using Numicon helps to make ideas more concrete.
A wide range of Numicon resources are available for you to use at home when teaching your pre-school child maths. In addition to the Numicon shapes, Oxford University has created a range of complementary resources that you can use to help support your child's learning experience. Obviously, some of the Numicon resources are aimed at school-age children, but those suitable for early years include:
Numicon Coloured Pegs: These blue, green, yellow, and red pegs can be used to build towers with Numicon shapes and Numicon baseboards, or can be used on their own to support ideas about number patterns.
Numicon Baseboard: Great for making patterns and building connections when using Numicon shapes and Numicon pegs.
Numicon Spinners: A fun (and quiet!) dice alternative that shows both the Numicon patterns and the one to 10 numerals.
Numicon At The Seaside - At Home: A number book and CD of original number songs that your child will love. Suitable for children aged three to five, this fab duo was first created for use in the classroom but proved so popular that an 'at home' version was produced. It also comes with a helpful set of notes to help support parents' teaching.
Where Can I Buy Numicon?
Numicon shapes, resources and books are available to buy from a wide range of stockists, including Oxford University Press, Amazon, WHSmith, Blackwell's, Smart Kids and Book Depository.
Using Numicon For Early Years Foundation Stage Learning
Children can be introduced to Numicon from the age of about eighteen months. At first, simply encourage your child to hold and play with the Numicon shapes. The next step is to help your child to associate each Numicon shape with the number it represents by gradually teaching them the number names that relate to the different shapes.
Taking things a stage further, you can begin teaching your child to put the Numicon shapes in order and to count the holes in each shape. Your child can use the Numicon pegs to fill the holes of the shapes, or they could use the pegs on the Numicon Baseboard for other counting games and activities.
Fun Numicon Activities For Under Fives
Making learning fun is always a good thing. It has been shown that the first experiences children have of maths have a significant impact on their future progress in the subject. Fortunately, there are loads of great ideas and helpful resources that you can use to support your mission to make maths more magical. We've detailed some of our favourite ideas below.
Baking: Mix together the ingredients for a biscuit base, roll it out, and then press the Numicon shapes into the dough. Cut out the shapes, bake, and then add sweets to the circles made by the finger holes.
Berries: Ask your child to pick the right amount of berries to place into the holes of selected Numicon shapes. If you have a selection such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, ask them to use a different variety of berry for each of the shapes.
Bubble bath: Make sure the Numicon shapes are hidden under the bubbles and ask your child to find a shape with a certain number of holes in it using touch only - strictly no looking!
Dice: Get your child to throw a dice and then to find the Numicon shape that matches the number of dots on the dice. The Numicon Spinner is also perfect for this activity.
Fishing: Put the Numicon shapes into a tub of water. Ask your child to fish out one shape using a fishing net and to count the holes of the shape they have caught.
Missing piece: Start with all of the Numicon shapes laid out. To begin, keep them in a straight line and in numerical order. To make things harder, mix up the Numicon shapes and lay them out randomly. Get your child to close their eyes whilst you remove one of the Numicon shapes. Then they can open their eyes and work out which shape is missing.
Painting: Get your child to dip their fingers in paint and then press them through the holes in the Numicon shapes.
Playdough: Press the Numicon shapes into playdough. Your child can also roll playdough into balls to put into the Numicon finger holes.
Printing: More fun with paint! Paint the Numicon shape, then turn it over and press the paint side onto paper. You could even create a mirror image by pressing the painted shape onto one half of the paper then folding the other half over the top of the printed image, giving it a rub, then pulling it back to reveal a mirror image.
Rubbings: Place a Numicon shape under a piece of paper and then get your child to rub over the paper with crayon to find out which shape is underneath.
Sand: Hide the Numicon shapes in the sandpit and ask your child to dig around until they find a shape. Once they have dug it out, ask them to count how many holes the shape has.
Scavenger hunt: Place the Numicon shapes around a smallish area and ask your child to find them in the correct order.
Staircase: Ask your child to make a staircase out of Numicon shapes by placing them next to each other in size order.
Sarah Blake lives in Lancashire and has been a writer for over 20 years. A self-confessed gym bunny and yogi, Sarah loves all things fitness and wellness, and can usually be found wearing lycra. Sarah loves family time and all things fun, but hates anything that involves getting cold!