I don’t do any “formal” teaching with my 2-year old, Karis. I really don’t think you have to work very hard to teach toddlers. They just naturally soak up every bit of information around them. So I thought I'd just share some ways that we have really enjoyed learning together and some of our favorite resources:
1. Doing what Mommy does --- Karis helps me do all my chores. I could get them done much more efficiently during naps and after she goes to bed, but I usually save them for her. It takes longer and might even be twice the work, but she loves it and is learning so much! She sweeps the floor, helps me put clothes away, and even does dishes. (Ok, maybe she just likes to play in the bubbles, but she is always there right beside me! :) We use all natural cleaners like vinegar and tea tree oil, so she even helps me scrub the bathrooms! Cooking is absolutely her favorite thing to do. Karis has put her little fingers in everything that I have cooked ever since she was big enough to stand on a chair by me at the counter. She is actually getting to be quite a helper now because she knows the names of all my cooking utensils and can hand me things. If I am chopping vegetables, then I give her the My Safe Cutter from Pampered Chef and she just saws away at her own little carrot. Sometimes it can be frustrating, like today when we were making Healthy Chocolate Candy (her potty training treat :) and she sneezed right in the pan. But it’s always so much more exciting to do it with my toddler!
2. Singing – my toddler learns through song better than anything else! I always have songs in my head, so when Karis was very young, I just started singing them out-loud to her. She already knows so many hymn/worship songs by heart and will randomly start singing "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Tis' So Sweet," or "My Jesus I Love Thee" while doing dishes or swinging outside. It melts my heart. I know that she doesn’t completely understand what the words mean yet, but I hope that as her understanding grows over time those words will be as special to her as they are to me. I thought I would try to teach her Bible Verses, but my stubborn 2-year old had absolutely no interest whatsoever until I put it to a melody and started singing the Bible Verse. Now she begs me to sing it over and over! Songs are also great for teaching the alphabet, numbers, etc. My Mom is a speech teacher and made me a copy of one of her teaching Cd's, Sounds Like Fun. There is one song that goes through each sound that a letter makes and a word using those sounds. Within a week, Karis could make every sound on the song and was singing the whole thing to me from memory! It is also a very mellow CD and is great for calming my girls down on car trips :)
– I started reading to Karis when she was first born and now she begs me to read to her all day long. We start our day off by reading together for at least a half hour, but usually longer. It’s the only time all day that my busy toddler sits still and she just soaks up the words on the page! So many times when she is repeating words that I read to her, I think to myself, “there is no way that she would have learned that word in our every day life because we just don’t talk about that topic very often.” Books make her excited about things she has never even seen! I thought I’d share a couple of books that seem to have taught her the most. All of these can probably be found at your public library (and most libraries have a fantastic method of requesting books online that you can pick up at your convenience!) Reading
My First Bob Books – These are cute little colorful books with silly pictures and stories. Karis loved the Alphabet set when we got it at 18 months, and she started really loving the Pre-Reading Skills set about the time she turned two. But even before she could completely follow the stories she loved flipping through the cute little books and looking at the silly pictures. I went ahead and bought them because they are all bound together in a fat cover at the library and Karis really enjoyed having all the separate little books to flip through so much more.
My “A” Sound Box books – There is a “sound box” book for every letter and Karis thinks they are so much fun! Because of these books, she has started picking out letters in other books that we read!
My Very First Library by Eric Carle – These are fun because the board book is cut in half to enable the child to read it on his own, kind of like a puzzle. For instance, Karis sees the blue top page and will flip through to find the matching blue bird on one of the bottom pages. The library includes colors, shapes, words, and numbers.
Anything by Dr. Seuss – I have been so amazed that my busy toddler will sit through several of these long books at a time. She absolutely loves the Cat in the Hat, The Diggingest Dog, and especially Go! Dog Go! The last one is my favorite because it taught her prepositions correctly at a really young age.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear – I love this book because of the repetition and color recognition. I started reading it to Karis when she was just days old and so far, this is the only book that Karis can read completely on her own.
4. Coloring – It sounds simple, but it is really the best preparation for writing I can do with her! And I love it; it is so relaxing! I color with her and help fix her fingers if she forgets the correct way to hold the crayon. We “chat” about the picture we are coloring, the color of our crayon, or sing whatever song pops into her head. It is definitely one of my favorite things to do with my girl!
Well, this post ended up being a lot longer than I expected, but I hope that I was able to convey that teaching a toddler does not have to be hard work at all – it can be pure fun and a completely natural part of your everyday routine!