Guest Post: Fun Ideas for Teaching Your Toddler

As a homeschooling mom, I am always on the lookout for ways to incorporate learning into our daily activities (or at least I try my darndest to!). I believe that learning should be a lifelong process, not limited to the four corners of a classroom (or, in the case of our homeschool, the four corners of our bedroom).

Over the almost six years that I’ve been a parent, I’ve also realized that kids learn best when (a) they’re having fun; (b) they’re being taught by someone whom they know loves them; and (c) there’s always a bit of singing or music involved.

I’ve also learned that each child is “wired” to learn differently and that each child will learn at his or her own pace, though, of course, it helps if we turn them in the right direction or give them the tools they need for learning.

When it comes to the toddler stage, one can actually teach your kid in oh-so-many ways — without her realizing that you’re already having “lessons!” You’ll actually probably be amazed at how she will retain what she learns and how quickly she’ll learn it!

To get the ball rolling, here are a few fun ideas you can use to teach your little one (and remember, as your child’s parent, you are actually his first teacher — after all, who taught him to nurse {or drink from a bottle, if he’s bottle-fed}; play; talk; walk; sleep through the night; etc.?):

 

  1. Sing silly nursery rhymes and children’s songs.

 

This is one of my all-time favorites and is always a hit with my kids (now aged five and three). Singing or reciting nursery rhymes (you can’t go wrong with Mother Goose) is a fun way for our kids to learn different elements of language and to explore using their imaginations. We can even introduce simple Geography concepts to them, or other “subjects” like Science and Math.

 

For example, with the nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” you can tell your little one: “You know, London is in another country, baby. It’s in the United Kingdom.” Or, “You know why the bridge fell down, honey? Because of gravity!” You could even inject a little lesson on being responsible; i.e. when something gets broken (London Bridge falling down), we can find ways to fix it (Build it up with iron bars). Then, you can just leave it at that, and wait for your toddler to be a bit older to explain things in more detail.

 

By introducing simple concepts like these early on, we are laying the foundation for more “formal” lessons later in our kids’ lives.

 

  1. Go for a “nature walk.”

 

Toddlerhood is the age of exploration and most of the kids I know love to explore nature! Even if you don’t live in a place where you can go for a “nature walk,” you should be able to find one nearby, e.g. the local park; a nearby field; etc. You may even want to visit the local zoo or wildlife park (though you should also gauge if your kid will enjoy the trip, as some kids may be a bit scared of animals).

 

Communing with nature is a fun, frugal way for little kids to learn — point out the different shapes of leaves; talk about the colors that they see; try to see how different creatures move differently. Oftentimes, you don’t have to do much to teach your child — just let her explore her surroundings and it would already be a lesson in itself!

 

  1. Make a mini-me.

 

We all probably know the children’s songs “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or “My Toes, My Knees, My Shoulders, My Head.” Well, here’s a fun way to reinforce what our little ones can learn from those songs: Make a mini-me!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get a big piece of cardboard or other type of paper. It should be large enough for your toddler to lie down on.

 

  1. Ask your toddler to lie down on the paper and then trace the outline of her body using a pencil — voila! Now you have a “mini-me” of your little one!

 

  1. Ask your toddler to stand up and help you “design” her mini-me. She won’t be able to draw yet, but you could draw her body parts for her and ask for her “help” as to which part goes where.

 

For example: Point to the head part of the drawing and ask, “What goes here, sweetie?” Encourage her to point to the different parts of her own body as you go along.

 

  1. Play different versions of “peek-a-boo.”

 

Being a toddler can be a liberating yet frightening time for our children. This is the time when they discover that they can move about more independently and when they want to explore their surroundings. However, this new found independence can be a bit scary, as this means moving away from the safety of Mama’s arms or lap.

 

Also, your little one may get upset when you “disappear” for short periods of time (like when you need to go to the loo — which we all need to do at one point or another, LOL!) and for longer periods, too (like when you need to go to work, if you work outside the home).

 

To avoid this, try playing the following versions of peek-a-boo, to teach your child about object permanence:

 

  1. Hide one of her favorite toys or books and ask her to look for it.
  2. Ask her to hide one of her favorite toys or books and “look” for it with her.
  3. Hide yourself behind a piece of furniture and then pop up and say, “Peek-a-boo!” Encourage your toddler to do the same.
  4. Play peek-a-boo with other members of the family, especially whoever will be caring for your child whenever you are not around.

 

These are just a FEW of the many, many things one can do to teach our toddlers. Don’t forget though, above all these, we need to reinforce to our little ones that they are special and one-of-a-kind and deeply, greatly loved. No amount of formal and informal lessons can measure up to teaching our children to love themselves and to love others.

Tina Santiago-Rodriguez is a wife and homeschool mom by vocation, a licensed physiotherapist by education and the managing editor of an inspirational children’s magazine by profession. She also writes for a number of Philippine and foreign publications on a wide range of topics, including parenting, homeschooling and financial literacy for families. Prior to discovering her “mission” as a writer upon their return to Manila, Philippines, Tina and her family were based in East Timor as lay missionaries for their Catholic community, Couples for Christ. Get to know Tina more through her blogs at www.trulyrichmom.com and www.teachermamatina.blogspot.com.