Consistency as the Foundation of Mathematical Concepts for Infants

As we continue to explore the special relationship between infants and caregivers in child care, I thought we could look at consistency as the foundation on which all mathematical concepts are built for our youngest children.

If you think about it, a baby’s day is broken down into fairly simply parts.  There is eating, there is diapering, there is cuddling, there is bathing, and there is sleep.  How do we help babies begin to understand the sequences of those events?  Clearly, consistency is at the root of their understandings.

If you have a sequenced series of behaviors associated with diaper-changing, for example, the babies in your care will come to expect those behaviors to happen in exactly that sequence.  This is how they learn that after they are put up on the changing table, the teacher tickles their nose, puts her hand on her belly, tells her that it is changing time, and then lifts her legs.  If this sequence of behaviors repeats itself every time a diaper is changed, the infant will begin to expect the events to happen in a certain sequence and then when those expectations are met, they build trust with their caregiver and their environment.

This is one (of many) reasons that the primary caregiving model is so critical to the care of infants.  Even if we try to do things like the other teachers in the room, we don’t usually do things exactly the same.  These differences can be really great for older children as they learn to be flexible and adaptable, but can be tough on infants.

We want the infants in our care to learn to trust.  The do this by consistency of routine and caregiving.  This concept of consistency can be clearly described to parents to help them understand that we are thinking about the earliest math concepts when working with their babies and they can support the same emerging understandings by creating consistency in their homes, as well.

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