Early academic learning is crucial help for success and lack of it can seriously increase the risks of very bad outcomes such as subsequent drop out of school, disregard of college education, teen pregnancies and even tendencies to commit crimes. Early academic education not only improves kids' interest in the world in general, but also how they will be able to solve problems, socialize, communicate, and much more.
Developing children's language and math abilities before they enter formal school can prevent them from a lot of difficulties. Basic literacy skills (being familiar with the alphabet and words and phonics, in particular), are fundamental knowledge that any child needs to learn from the very first years. Which means from birth. Moreover, learning to read and to count at a young age is an efficient way to foster parent-child bonding. Most kids enjoy being read to, to look at pictures, and sound out words and numbers, especially with mom or dad.
While an efficient method for learning to read is to start with successively discovering the letters, the words and the phrases, it seems that math could be learned in a less systematic way. Some kids may understand complex math concepts easily, while others may take some time to grasp the basics in this domain. It doesn't really matter; the most important thing is to play with numbers as early as possible, in order to learn, understand and, yes... love them.
Picture: Alan & Mac (ChildUp.com)