Toddler learning activities

Toddler Learning and Playtime

Play is perhaps the most important activity of young children. It's their"work," their principal occupation, and how they learn! Even when thisprocess may not be obvious, learning occurs all the time for youngchildren. They learn by exploring the world around them, interacting withpeople they meet, and experimenting with things they come across.

Children Learn From Each Other

When children play with siblings and friends, they learn from each other.As questions, challenges, and conflicts arise, they figure out how to solveproblems.

When your child plays in a group made up of different ages, he has theopportunity to learn in two different ways: first, by modeling the behaviorof the older children, and second, by "teaching" the younger or lessadvanced children.

Children Learn by Doing

Learning is an active process. The more hands-on experiences your childhas, the more curious and capable he'll become. Children are fascinated by the work grownups do — cooking,household chores, and fixing things. What's more, these real-life taskshave tremendous learning value for children. So give your child his ownsmall bowl of pancake batter to mix and a child-size broom so he can helpsweep the floor.

Outdoor play — running and climbing — is essential for healthy physicaldevelopment,and it's a chance for him to investigate nature.

Children Learn by Creating and Imagining

You can further expand your child's learning opportunities by keepingmaterials around the house that encourage him to express his ideas. Some good materials include:

  • Paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and tape for drawing, writing,and constructing
  • Cardboard boxes and other commonly found objects
  • Easel paints and watercolors
  • Water, sand, play dough, and clay for sensory experiences
  • Building blocks and Legos
  • Dress-up clothes, hats, and props

Children Learn From the Adults in Their Lives

Your lifelong offering of unconditional love and support is essential foryour child to thrive and develop. This relationship provides the sense ofsecurity and positive self-esteem your child needs in order to achieve andto learn. With emotional support in place, you can help your child get themost out of play (and therefore learning) by following these suggestions:

Be specific and supportive. Telling your child "You have to share" isn't very helpful. At best, she'llcooperate while you're looking on. But if you guide her through theturn-taking process, she'll understand more about how to share next time.

Help your child be a good observer.Children learn from actively studying the world around them. If you take awalk with your 3-year-old and come upon a construction site, share herinterest in the activity by stopping to watch and exclaiming, "Wow! Lookhow big the wheels on that dump truck are."

Model positive behaviors.One of the most powerful ways your child learns is by following yourexample. This process happens naturally and almost unconsciously. Forexample, when your child sees you reading regularly, she will want to readand be read to. And reading is one of the most important things you can dowith your child!

Use positive language.Everyone responds better to positive words than to negative ones. Insteadof issuing a command or a prohibition ("Don't throw the ball over there!")offer a suggestion of what your child can do ("That's a good place to throwthe ball").

Play is the work of childhood. It's how your child learns about the worldand how to get along in it. When you support your child in this challengingjob, then your child's work really will be child's play.

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