Learning to love maths!

I hate math. I have always hated math. I manage to do enough to figure out my bank balance and calculate how to cut a recipe in half, but the finer points of advanced math remain beyond my grasp. When it came to the sciences that required some tricky math, I managed to memorize my way through, but I am the first to admit that abstract mathematical thinking is not my strong suit.

Having lived without this skill for my whole life, what’s the problem with the attitude conveyed in my first sentence? The problem is that such an assertion from parents could well sour the thinking of the kids around us. Researchers say that even mathphobic parents can raise kids who enjoy and excel in math, but that requires stopping the negative talk about math and mixing math games, questions, and observations into daily life, in the same way that they do reading and spelling.

Current research continues to indicate the importance of math to children’s success. A recent study indicates that math skills when children enter kindergarten are even stronger predictors of later school success than reading skills or even the ability to pay attention. And yet the most recent results in international student assessment show that American students continue to lag behind global peers, performing below average when compared with children in more than thirty other
industrialized nations.

So, besides avoiding the negative personal attitudes about math, there are many simple things that parents can do in the early years to foster understanding about numbers and spatial relationships. Very young children can learn to recite number by rote. Many a four-year-old can rattle off a string of numbers all the way up to fifty, but is flummoxed when asked to put a cookie for each of her friends on the plate. Table setting helps with this one-to-one correspondence, needing a plate, fork, and knife for each member of the family.

Helping children make connections between numbers and sets of objects—like giving five Cheerios for the number five—is far more meaningful in establishing math concepts. (How about saving an egg carton, marking a different numeral in each of the cups, and asking your youngster to put the corresponding number of Cheerios in each cup? That’s a fun, math-rich snack!)

Simple block-building games, encouraging children to replicate your stack of blocks, can teach spatial skills. Learning spatial relationships (like bigger and smaller or light and heavy) is linked to math skills. Think about all the items in your kitchen cabinets that could support this kind of learning play, like nesting measuring cups or lining up different sizes of packages.

Help your kids find the patterns that are embedded in picture books, like the red-stripe, green-stripe, bluestripe on the snake. Patterns are basic to math concepts. Make a game of finding geometric shapes around the house or when out in the car.

Here’s a fun outdoor game full of math. Draw a number line with chalk on the sidewalk and ask your child to hop to the number 4, and then to hop to the number that is two more, and then to the one that is three less, and so on.

Before long, you’ll forget that you hate math, and your youngster will be well on the way to math proficiency!

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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by Switcher.ie. It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - https://switcher.ie/broadband/guides/how-to-keep-your-children-safe-online/ - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd cybersafekids.ie to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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