Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teaching the Toddler

One thing for sure, Toddlers do not need anything special for them to learn!  I've never seen a single toddler that didn't soak up as much information as possible as fast as they could.  They seem to be natural sponges.

I think the real danger comes in pushing them too hard to perfect the stuff that they are trying out.

Sunshine has recently discovered cutting.  She will latch onto any stray pair of scissors and any paper, and go to cutting with a vengeance.   I am so glad the our family is already in the habit of putting scissors away.   I could get all over her about how she cuts, and make her hold the scissors just so and cut on lines, but so far I've managed to just watch and gently turn her hands so that the scissors actually cut the paper.  I also encourage "cut, don't tear".  She has a stack of paper that she knows is OK to draw on ... so they must be OK to cut.  It's been a couple of weeks now since she cut anything important!

Montessori Method works really well for toddlers and most preschoolers.  Not that I've incorporated EVERY single thing that they do, but the idea behind it works.  As I understand it, the children learn through play and interacting with adults.

There are literally dozens of awesome Montessori inspired blogs.  When Joel was little, one of my favorites was Chasing Cheerios - because the Mom would use stuff she had around the house to recreate the expensive toys she saw in magazines.  It was so clever, and so do-able.   One project taught the months of the year - I found an old calendar and cut it up for a matching game - perfect!

If your toddler is your only/ oldest child - just add them to everything you do.  Teach them count by cooking and letting them help count the cups of flour and sugar and eggs.  Teach colors by sorting laundry.  Teach shapes by cutting cookies and sandwiches.   It is so easy to include a willing child whose main goal is to be with Mom (or Dad).

Picture "Song's First Scissors"

What do I have on hand for my toddler during the day?

Wooden Blocks

Lego Blocks

ABC blocks / Magnets - 3 D alphabets and numbers help fix a letter's shape in a child's mind.  One of the therapys for dyslexia, is to make clay letters and numbers, so the child can touch and feel the letter.  Little brains learn this way.

Sensory Tubs  ....  Actually, I have a yard of SAND ... and from time to time, I bury coins, beads, and other fun things ... all of the kids love treasure hunting.  Sensory tubs can be made with sand, rice, beans, leaves, and all kinds of fun items.  The internet has hundreds of ideas.

Bean Bags

Balls - a variety of sizes

Dolls - all sizes and types - avoid dolls with "real hair"

Buttons and shoe strings

Oversized beads - I have fun shapes and big wooden beads

Paper and art supplies - scissors, glue sticks, crayons, paint (I water down acrylic paints), markers, and colored pencils.  This is used at the table with supervision.   A home made desktop art easel can be made from a pizza box.

Boxes and tubes

Sticks and rocks

Cars and trucks

Board Books

Little plastic animals

Magnets - under supervision


Games (some of these can be tons of fun just letting an older toddler sit and play with the pieces and the board)

Rubber bands

Hair bows or loose ribbon

Oversized paper clips

Large nuts and bolts

egg cartons

And the list could go on and on ....  over the years I've just watched for things to catch my kids eyes, and tried to keep an open mind.  Story had a huge collection of stickers ... on juice can lids.  She loved to look at them and stack them.  Song had a bathtub funnel that we made from a milk jug.  Scholar use to run around with egg cartons full of rocks and leaves and sticks.

Taking walks and going to the park are wonderful too - moving, running, and sunshine help build brains and balance.

A toddler's world is all about exploring and imitating.   If you go out of your way to provide an environment on purpose to allow your child to explore and imitate you .... you will find that the "terrible two" stage is a lot less of a problem.   This is the age of learning - and becoming an individual.    Provide plenty of opportunity for curiosity ....  I've often allowed my kids to traipse kitchen supplies (spoons, bowls, cups, measuring spoons) up to the bathroom for bath time.

Relax, have fun, and try to see the amazing world that God made through the eyes of your toddler.

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