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How do I help boost my child’s conceptual reasoning?

little boy playing a game with his mom

Key points:

  1. Ages 36-48 months: Children develop conceptual reasoning skills.
  2. Concepts include size, distance, speed, height, weight, and order.
  3. Use daily experiences to introduce implicit math concepts.
  4. Engage in activities and games that support understanding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, between 36 and 48 months of age, children start developing their conceptual reasoning skills. This set is crucial for categorizing the information they get from the world, and for organizing it according to the characteristics of every object.


A big part of conceptual reasoning involves understanding the implicit mathematical ideas behind the differences, similitudes, and relationships of more vs. less. Around this age, your child is working hard at understanding the concepts of size (big vs. small), distance (close vs. far), speed (fast vs. slow), height (high vs. low), weight (heavy vs. light) and order (first vs. last). Apart from pointing out these characteristics, so that your child starts noticing them, it’s important to support their understanding of the numerical concepts organizing these ideas.

Here are some tips and ideas on how to use implicit math concepts when talking about your day or describing something you are seeing:

  • Point out numbers you see in your everyday life, like those on your cellphone, clock, addresses, on signs on the street, etc.
  • Count steps, houses, trees, etc.
  • Use a growth chart to mark your kid’s height. Describe what you are doing and how the numbers get bigger as they grow.
  • When cooking or baking, supervise your child and ask them to help with simple tasks like filling and mixing, while you describe how you are measuring and what is the order you follow when adding the ingredients.
  • Talk about activities that happen at certain moments of the day, like “when it’s dark outside we eat dinner and then we go to bed”, to help develop your child’s sense of time and progression.
  • Play games that encourage noticing shapes, colors, and sizes, like “I Spy”.
  • Have differently shaped foods for a meal, and together, notice how the shape of the square crackers are different from those of the banana slices or the string cheese.

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