Early childhood education is a profession and a calling all on its own. As parents and teachers of toddlers, there’s so much to know about early brain and language development that can help us facilitate their learning in the best way possible.
Here are some tips that are simple to remember and implement. We hope you’ll enjoy trying them out with your toddler.
Ask your toddler for help. Have her put her things away, bring items to you, throw trash in the can, etc. It takes more time to have your toddler do something rather than doing it yourself, but involving her helps her develop her ability to follow directions, and makes her feel like a valued and needed member of the family.
Pretend together. Getting involved in your child’s imaginary play helps him develop language skills, imagination, and bonding.
Encourage her to imitate you. Mirroring activities like Simon Says help your child learn the parts of the body, practice her hand-eye coordination, and learn how to follow directions. Any game that involves talking also develop her language skills.
Model self-control and good manners. Emotional self-regulation doesn’t come naturally, but by demonstrating it to your toddler, you can help him begin to gain these skills. When he spills something, model the correct way to respond. When he gets hurt, be calm and empathetic. Instead of telling your child to say hello to people or to say please and thank you, try saying it for him. For example, when you set his plate in front of him, say, “Thank you, Mommy!” yourself, and eventually he’ll start saying it too. Of course, using good manners with other people will teach him to do the same.
Provide simple tools for learning. Sensory play is great for brain development. Try dried beans in containers (closely supervised), marbles and paint in a cardboard box, or some of these ideas.
Focus on efforts. When your child tries hard to do something, point it out and praise her for it. It’s not about the results, it’s about the fact that she’s learning to persevere. This is the best indicator of her future success in academics and life.
Let him try! It’s okay if he gets frustrated trying to do something himself. That’s part of the learning process. You can gently coach him or offer a solution. One phrase I like to use is “try again or ask for help.”
Follow her lead. Join her in her play and let her initiate the direction it goes. This will give her a sense of ownership and help her learn social skills.
Don’t correct his speaking, just model the correct way to say it. Let him finish talking and then repeat it back the correct way to show you understand. For example, if your toddler says, “High chair?” you can say, “Would you like to get in your high chair for lunch?” This is communicating that you understand and helping her verbal skills at the same time.
Acknowledge her feelings and desires. Even if you can’t give her what she wants at that moment, let her know you understand what she wants. This is one of the most important tools in conflict and communication, because we all want to be understood.