For some people the world toddler conjures up images of a terrible two-year-old throwing tantrums and slowly having to say goodbye to those frequent brief havens of reprieve called naps as your toddler requires them less and less.
Sure, young children can grow a bit headstrong and defiant as they transition from tiny passive infant to a toddling temperamental tot but there are still plenty of fun ways to engage your headstrong child.
First and foremost- READ! Read often and read proudly. Books will be the backbone of your child’s education and key to unlocking their imagination. The more you enjoy reading the more your child will too. Do fun voices and gesture wildly- try and keep their attention! Don’t worry if your child won’t sit through more than the title page. Let them get up when their attention wanes. But keep at it and one day- they’ll amaze you by sitting through an entire reading. Also be sure your children see you reading for pleasure often. It’s a good habit to model.
I also start all my children off by teaching sign language from infancy and following through into their toddler years. I believe it helps soften the blow of the terrible twos by giving them a “voice” before they’re capable of vocalizing speech. You’d be amazed at how a handful of basic signs can deter many a meltdown by giving children a means to be understood. Don’t worry if you haven’t been signing to your child from day 1. It’s not too late!
Don’t waste your money purchasing books on baby signs but just pull from comprehensive American Sign Language (ASL) websites. Here are two of my favorites:
- Signing Savvy – is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of ASL signs. You can register for a FREE account that allows you 5 signs per day or you can pay for a full account to have unlimited and unrestricted access.
- Michigan State University ASL Browser – is another online ASL resource. It’s not as exhaustive and complete as Signing Savvy, but still very useful. This site does need a browser that supports frames and the ability to embed Quicktime videos in order to work properly.
I also utilize the Toddler n’ Tot phase to utilize song-based play and learning games. Kids love being sung to and, luckily for me, they’re not too picky an audience and any voice will do. I set up my own mini circle-time similar to what many daycares and preschools offer. I was given this wonderful collection of 200 Children’s Songs back when Mira was a baby. I’m partial to this it because it includes a wide variety off educational songs, nursery rhymes, and fun nonsensical silly songs. Be sure to check your library and try out new artists and collections before you make any purchase.
A few of our family’s favorite artists include:
As toddlers interact more with the world they’ll naturally flock to objects, colors, animals, or people that appeal to them. Use their new passions to your advantage. Is your child fond of puppies? Count puppies together. Your kid have an obsession with birds? Print out pictures of our feathered friends and discuss their colors. Does your kid go ga-ga over Grandma? Play Preposition-Hide-and-Seek. “There’s Grandma ON the couch. Now Grandma is BEHIND the door. Silly Grandma is UNDER the table.” (Just be sure to help Grandma up…)
If your toddler has older siblings already doing schoolwork you might find your toddler showing an interest in following along. There are loads of websites with tons of free printable material to utilize so you can include your curious tot in on your classroom action. Carissa over at 1+1+1=1 has a wealth of materials to choose from. She has so many resources it can be overwhelming, but start with her Tot Printables here and gradually work your way up to her more involved Totpacks. From there you can easily segue to her awesome collection of BigKid and Preschool material as your child gets older.
1+1+1=1 is just one of the many websites out there with tons of great inspiration. Here are a few more websites I frequently visit and you should check out:
- Living Montessori Now – Don’t feel like you have to adhere to the Montessori philosophy in order to utilize some of the great Montessori activities.
- Counting Coconuts – Learning activities and crafts geared for children ages 2-6.
- No Time For Flashcards – Learning and play for age 2-3 years.
- Over the Big Moon – Fun family activities and pre-k packs.
And lastly, the single most important activity you can be doing with your child is cuddling. Kisses, bear hugs, and tickle fests! And yes, you can even make this time educational too by beginning with a good picture book and ending with playful wrestling. So go ahead and love on that learning baby!