Early childhood education is an important part of your child's development. Now that she is a toddler, everything around her has suddenly become a big playground to explore. Although your child will not be reading and writing just quite yet, exposing her to games based on fun subjects will give her yet another way to look at the world. Weekly activities such as art, music, books and other hands-on experiences can help your child grasp at the milestones hidden in themed learning, so that she'll be ready for preschool and school.
Shapes make up the world around us, and your child is at the perfect age to make the connection between a circle and a cookie. Sturdy board books, such as "Touch and Feel: Shapes," by DK Publishing, give children the opportunity to use their senses to learn, as well as begin a life-long appreciation for literacy. Your child can also use shape stamps to dip in paint and press onto a large piece of paper. Puzzles, textured flash cards and scavenger hunts are other ways to encourage children to learn about shapes. Soon, you will find that she will be testing your knowledge by pointing out squares, rectangles, diamonds and triangles everywhere you go!
Children are naturally drawn to animals of all kinds, whether the animals live on a farm or in the jungle. Animal talk is a fun subject to tackle with toddlers, especially since there are so many different habitats to explore. Hop on the computer and research different websites that have live streams of various animals, or visit the zoo to point out lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). Help develop your child's gross motor skills and coordination by hopping like a bunny, slithering like a snake and galloping like a horse. In addition, the moo-ing and baa-ing in the popular song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" are not only silly sounds, they're also a good way to build upon various aspects of speech development.
One thing your child may notice from day to day is the weather outside. If it is sunny, she knows she can play on the playground. If it is rainy, she should carry an umbrella. Learning to differentiate between various weather conditions can help your child plan her daily activities, as well as getting a head start on scientific observation. Sing songs such as "Rain, Rain, Go Away" and "You Are My Sunshine" every morning while looking out the window. Take a walk in the park to observe the sky and comment on the shape of the clouds. You and your child can also paint a picture of what it looks like outside. A big part of early learning is discussion, so engage in conversations with your child about the weather whenever possible. Who knows -- maybe she will have a career in meteorology someday!
You have probably already experienced the many (and exhausting) emotions that accompany your growing toddler. Young children often have a difficult time expressing themselves, and must rely on facial expressions and body language to get their message across to an adult. Using crayons, create faces on paper plates that correspond with different emotions. Show them to your toddler and demonstrate each feeling. If the plate shows a scowl, stomp your feet and say, "I'm so mad!" If the face has a smile, laugh and say, "I'm so happy!" These are great tools to use when you and your child are having a disagreement. Have her pick from the many faces to let you know what she is feeling, and talk about it once she has calmed down. The hands-on experience will help her channel her emotions, and will give you a little time to breathe.
- Touch and Feel: Shapes; DK Publishing
- NAEYC: DAP with Infants and Toddlers
- Toddlers Together: The Complete Planning Guide For A Toddler Curriculum; Cynthia Catland
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