Have you ever encouraged your child to count backwards? It's ok if you haven't – it's not something you usually think about. I thought that it comes naturally and that the kids who can count and add, can do it both back and forth. Boy, was I wrong!
When I first became aware of this, I decided to do a little experiment. I changed the rules in a game I play with a group of five-years-olds in the kindergarten. Every child in this group could count over 20. The new rules, however, focused on counting backwards. As I was observing the kids, I realised only 2 out of 6 could count backwards without major difficulties. Although I was a bit concerned, I thought this is simply a result of me not encouraging them enough.
So I started introducing more content to motivate them. We counted ourselves backwards, we counted pencils backwards, candles on a cake backwards, we counted everything – backwards. After one week and a lot of numbers, I asked all children to count backwards from 10 to 1. Out of the 4 that couldn't do it before, only one of them learnt to do it – with all the effort and practice!
At this point I got really intrigued so I started exploring the topic further. I stumbled upon a particularly impressive lecture that made me understand the problem better – it was given by Dr. Ranko Rajovic, a Serbian neuroendokrinologist. During the lecture Dr. Rajovic stresses the importance of motor skills development as a precondition for the brain development and cognitive abilities. Simply put, in order for children to start thinking, connecting and concluding, they need to go through various motor skill challenges.
For example, traditionally people believed that spinning is not good for children – some would even suggest "de-spinning" in the opposite direction to maintain the balance. What a lot of people don't know is that spinning is very important for the development of brain synapses (connections between neurons through which "information" flows). Naturally, this directly affects children's cognitive skills and intelligence.
The same thing applies for jumping on the bed – it's much more useful than it's dangerous. If we allow our children to jump on the bed in safe conditions, we're doing them a big favor. During jumping images rapidly interchange and the child develops attention and focus.
Now let's get back to the beginning and all things backwards. If you notice that your child too can't count backwards – instead of teaching him or her how to do it, encourage those activities that include walking backwards. Kids love these activities so you're gonna have loads of fun too! But you will also enable your child to naturally absorb counting backwards and better understanding of numbers.
Kids instinctively do things they need. The task of parents is only to ensure a safe and controlled environment for it. And this is really a tiny task, considering the great results that come from it.