Friday, October 17, 2008

Eleven Things to Do with Toddlers

Someone on a message board that I am involved with just asked the question, "What kind of schooling should I be doing with a toddler who is one and a half years old?" I'm jumped in because I immediately knew the answer having been through teaching two toddlers already.

The funny thing about this is that I'm been struggling with this same question myself. My youngest is driving my batty with his constant go, go, go and climb, climb, climb. What do I do with this kid? I would think. How do I keep him occupied? What can I "teach" him while the bigger ones are doing school? Duh! I knew the answer; I guess I just needed someone else to ask the question to trigger my memory of what I did with Mika. (I left most of Sammy's preschool to his public school teacher which I regret now.) So, what do you teach a toddler? It's simple really....

  1. Read picture books. Usually, reading at that age is just pointing to pictures and naming them. If the child knows some of the names for pictures on the page, ask them to find them. Any book with good pictures will work. I like ABC books because you usually get a lot of good pictures and can point out the letters, too. In a People House is another good book with lots of pictures.
  2. Teach him body parts by pointing to his and your parts and naming them. It's as simple as, "Where's your nose? Where's Mommy's ear?" My 19 month old can now name eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, ears, head, hair, fingers, hand, feet, toes, belly, arm, leg, and elbow because we've been playing this game for a while.
  3. Teach colors by pointing to things and naming their colors. This can be done by pointing to pictures in books or things in the house, store, etc. I also like to draw colored circles while we are coloring together and name the colors together.
  4. Teach counting by counting everything. My daughter could count to ten when she was two simply because we counted literally everything...fingers, toes, flowers, buttons, anything. In picture books, I look for pictures that have more than one things on the page. If the picture has four birds we count the birds. Five flowers means we count the flowers. I have a Little People lift the flap book; it also has animals, colors, and shapes.
  5. Teach letters by pointing to them in ABC books or drawing them. I like to use a Magna Doodle for numbers and letters. We have a travel size one and my toddler likes me to write letters on it for him to erase. He knows a few of them. My daughter learned basic sight words this same way. I like taking it on long car drives when I'm not the driver and pass it back and forth with my child. I also used the magna doodle for counting by drawing different numbers of shapes and counting them together.
  6. Teach basic feelings by drawing (on paper/magna doodle) faces that are happy, sad, angry, surprised. Model the look on your own face too.
  7. You can start learning spatial concepts by pointing, drawing, and reading books like Go Dog Go. We start with up and down, over and under, left and right. Go Dog Go is a good book for this, colors, and counting.
  8. Work on tactile stimulation and motor control by playing with play dough, clay, paint, coloring, rice, water play, beans, pasta, etc. Use non-toxic paint or pudding for painting. You can also use a paint brush dipped in water on construction paper for mess-free painting. Rice is great to scoop and pour into bowls, muffin tins, measuring cups, and spoons. I sweep my kitchen floor well before setting out the rice. When he's done, I sweep up the rice to use for another day. When it gets too dirty, it's inexpensive to replace. Watch your child carefully when playing with choking hazards like dry beans, pasta, and small blocks (mine likes linking cubes).
  9. Have him "help" you with things. A toddler can carry in groceries. He can carry a single, lightweight item into the house. He can help put laundry in the washer/dryer, dry plastic dishes, help make the bed, pick up toys, throw away trash (ours throws away most of his own diapers), and clean with water and a towel.
  10. Involve him with the big kids' learning. When my older two build pyramids out of sugar cubes, I helped my toddler make a mini pyramid of his own. When we do our nightly read alouds, he is right there with us. He'll get the pillows he and I sit on (the older two lay in their beds) and hand me the book. He'll look through a picture book, wander around the room playing with toys he finds, or fall asleep but he's still getting the exposure. He's listened in on Where the Red Fern Grows, The BFG, and now Danny The Champion of the World.
  11. Take him places not normally considered a toddler friendly place. I have successfully taken all of my kids to museums, science centers, concerts, live theater, children's events, and specialty stores from the time they were infants. With more rambunctious toddlers, like Josh, it may take some preplanned and cheating. I take along a stroller to carry our things and to serve as a bed for when he gets tired. Often, it has no child in it though. If we are going some place in the evening requiring kids to be quieter, I'll limit his nap so he's tired and more likely to fall asleep. I also bring a drink and non-messy snacks. If the venue is one that requires attendees to be very quiet (ie. symphony), I've given him chamomile in his drink to help calm him. Sit on the end of the aisle if you can and be ready to leave with your child if he gets squirmy or loud. He'll get the exposure and gain the ability to sit longer with time.

Talking, interacting, and showing a toddler these things will go a long way towards giving him a head start for school. In fact, there's a good chance he'll be ahead come time for kindergarten.

And have fun!

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Anonymous said...

Joann: I work with the Children's Museum of Tacoma and I look at your blog regularly. I thought you might appreciate these FREE programs for young children and those who care for them.

Free play opportunities for children birth to 5 years old and their adult caregivers. Come play with us and help kids get ready for school! Sessions include play-filled activities and information for adults. You’ll leave with resources and activity ideas for playing and learning at home.

October 19 through December 19; 10:00 – 11:30am

Tuesdays at People’s Neighborhood Resource Center, 1602 S MLK Jr Way, Tacoma

Wednesdays at Graham Library, 9202 224th St E, Graham

Thursdays at Lakewood Library, 6300 Wildaire Rd SW, Lakewood

Fridays at Parkland/Spanaway Library, 13718 Pacific Ave S, Tacoma

Come help evaluate new parenting materials from the Talaris Institute. It’s easy and FREE! Attend one session. Fill out a short survey. Receive a FREE kit with toy, book and parent resource. Take a telephone survey, about four weeks after the session. Your information and opinions will be kept confidential.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Life With Toddler (Children 1 year old to 3 years old)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Life with Preschooler (Children 3 to 5 years old)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Life with Baby (Children 1 year old and younger)

Unknown said...

I do a lot of these same things with my almost 17 month old daughter. She just discovered "drawing" on a magna doodle! She has so much fun with that, I think we'll be starting toddler crafts soon too!

Thanks for sharing these great ideas!