Every Wednesday was baking day in Mrs. Hamms' preschool class. This week the toddlers were smartly dressed in their cotton aprons. They were making a cookie recipe that required lots of smooshing with their freshly cleaned hands. Just as she pronounced the dough done, 3-year-old Joey sneezed into the bowl. Mrs. Hamms made an executive decision: the heat from baking would demolish any germs, and went ahead and baked the batch. The children declared the warm and chocolatey cookies the best they'd ever eaten! Hands-on cooking activities are just one of many that employ multiple developmental skills for toddlers. Fun is the key for teacher-directed activities for toddlers.
The Fun Factor
Toddlers love exploring their world. Even the most reticent will join into a range of organized activities from Lummi sticks to finger painting if they are presented in an appealing manner. Building on a toddler's natural curiosity and joie de vivre ensures his participation in class activities. Look at every planned activity and slip a fun factor into it. For instance, if you will be working on counting to five, play musical chairs with a number taped to each chair. When the music stops and children sit in a chair, they need to identify the number on their chair . The teacher claps and exclaims "Woo hoos" wildly at either their correct answer or teacher-aided correct answer.
Activities With a Purpose
Teacher-directed activities for toddlers are more than just for entertainment. They are for learning. Every planned activity should have one or more skills development opportunities woven into the project. Even free play -- or discovery learning -- can have a purpose. The teacher begins planning with learning concepts to be worked on, and then employs activities that facilitate toddlers' mastering the concepts. An example is shape recognition. The class will be working on mastering identification of circles and squares. Using cardstock and a black marker, the teacher uses circles to create a snowman, or squares to fashion a house. Toddlers are provided with wax sticks, and their job (game) is to bend them to the shapes on the card, pressing them over the shapes. Each child then gets to stand and share what their shape figure is and what type of shape it is made with. The class claps and once again, "Woo hoos!" are exclaimed.
Embedding Educational Goals in Activities
Another teacher-directed activity is to begin with an activity you know toddlers love, and then consider what educational goals could reasonably be embedded in the activity. For instance, if the children enjoy teacher-made bingo games, you can make a simple nine-square bingo game with each square a different color. The toddlers have markers, and as the teacher shows a master card with the color pink, he initially calls out the color name "Pink," but as the children show progress in color recognition, the teacher holds up the color card and asks a child the color name. Go for "black out," wherein all of the squares must have a marker, and the children then call out "Bingo!"
A Sampling of Activities
Several teacher-directed activities for toddlers never fail to fascinate and delight children. Among those activities are bingo, painting, Play-Doh, stacking/interlocking toy pieces, singing with hand actions, musical chairs, cooking, doll houses with family figures, kiddie kitchens with accoutrements, dolls with changeable clothing, 25-piece or less puzzles, books read out loud by the teacher and playing outside on climbing equipment. Add to this list any toy or teacher-created activity that you find holds their interest; the list will change often. Just look for a learning activity that can be coupled with the project, and make it fun!
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