Toddlers are innately curious little creatures. From their constantly-grasping hands to their first attempts at language, their minds are constantly growing and expanding during the preschool years.
Opportunities to learn abound but how can you channel exploration and play into constructive learning? Try these five practical activities at home to give your tot a head start.
Reading builds a solid foundation for language development and should be the cornerstone of any at-home learning plan. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites that reading aloud and exploring books with your child significantly improves language development and literacy outcomes for the future. Some great go-to classics to have on hand for your little one are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Snowy Day and Goodnight Moon.
According to research published by the Early Childhood Research & Practice journal, there is evidence to support connections between cognitive development and high-quality pretend play. Allowing your young child to engage in dramatic role play will build a base for complex, multidimensional skills required for literacy, mathematics and science in the future. This learning-through-play approach should include real-life role playing games like playing house, grocery store and gardening. Pretend play provides scenarios for toddlers that will help them form mental and symbolic representations of concepts and objects.
Flashcards may seem like a tool that only teachers use but they can be an incredibly easy and effective way to engage an inquisitive toddler. They introduce new concepts and ideas or reinforce already developed ones. Download free alphabet, number, and vocabulary cards from Mr. Printables or create your own using magazine clippings. Print or paste, laminate, cut and you’re ready to go. Because these lessons tend to be more structured, allow your child to direct the time and length of each session. You’ll be surprised how frequently your child retrieves a deck and begs to “play cards.”
Educational television programs
You’ve taken the precautions from your pediatrician seriously — you should limit screen time for your toddler. Still, there are short, educational programs that cover a variety of preschool lessons — from investigating science to practicing spelling — that are worth watching. In a recent study, it was found that preschoolers who watched the educational PBS show SuperWHY! scored higher on standardized tests than those who did not. Other great programs to let your toddler watch in moderation include Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid and Caillou.
Smartphone and tablet apps
It’s no secret that smartphone and tablet developers tapped into the intuitive nature of children when crafting their tools. Hand a toddler an iPad and they’re an expert in minutes. Educational apps in the Android and Apple markets teach your toddler everything from her ABCs to easy multiplication. Invest in a heavy duty protective case for your device and sit beside your child to encourage her to interact with not only the application’s commands, but with you as well. Some great apps to start with are My Very First App and Kids ABC Phonics.