The first numbers

Last weekend, we were playing hide and seek. It was my turn to count, so I went “acht (8), nine (9) …” and my 20 month old son added: “tien (10)!” I didn’t really pay much attention to it, as I thought it had been a coincidence, so we continued playing.

As we walked up the stairs that evening, I started counting our steps. My son was happy to join me! He turned out to know ‘twee(2)’, ‘vier(4)’, ‘vijf(5)’ and ‘acht(8)’. I was so proud šŸ™‚

The next question was: can he do it in Italian? He turned out to know ‘due (2)’, ‘tre(3)’, ‘sei(6)’, ‘otto(8)’ and ‘nove(9)’. So cool! Ɓnd he puts the numbers in the right language together. It is also funny that he does not mention the same numbers in both languages. It seems that he picks out the somewhat easier figures first.

Learning how to count

Of course this doesn’t mean he knows how to count, but he’s definitely taking the first steps. I read that children learn to count in different stages:

  1. Children start to say numbers without knowing the meaning of those numbers
  2. Children start to indicate objects and say numbers, but this doesn’t have to be at the same time. They might miss some objects or count them double.
  3. Children start to group and order objects in order to count them
  4. Children know that counting starts at 1, that everything has to be counted once and that the last mentioned number indicates the total quantity.
  5. Small amounts can be indicated at a glance and children start to use rules of thumb to be able to count faster


We do not know exactly how he learned to count. We didn’t really practice the numbers with him. He probably just picked it up from the games we play and the books we read together with his sister.

Just before bedtime, we counted to ten one more time:
“[Uno], due, tre, [quattro], [cinque], sei, [sette], otto, nove, dieci – TIEN!”

Ever since we found out he was interested in the numbers, we practiced a bit more the last couple of days. He shows progress, as he not only addedĀ “tre” to the list, he also seems to understand that “dieci” and “tien” refer to the same. Or that they both go at the end of the list. Either way, I give him 10 out of 10 for trying!

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