Early Childhood Education and Learning Strategies
Planning educational experiences for your toddler (one to three years of age) can sound like a daunting task. Short attention spans and other issues characteristic of the toddler years can made traditional educational instruction counterproductive. What is the best way, then, to create educational experiences for your toddler?
- Plan educational activities in short segments of time, with periods of pure recreation or “downtime” between the periods of educational activity. This accommodates for your toddler’s short attention span. It also allows your toddler time to absorb the information that you have imparted and prevents your toddler from being overwhelmed by too much information presented too rapidly.
- Make learning fun and involve your toddler’s five senses. Take your toddler on a nature hike and help your toddler learn about plants and animals along the hike. [“Oooo! See the flower? Do you think it’s pretty? Why? (or Why not?) Can you smell it? Does it smell good? Do you know what kind of flower that is? It’s a sunflower.”] Pair play with education by labeling your toddler’s toys and teaching your toddler to know the words for each of his/her toys; begin with nouns only and add adjectives once nouns are mastered. [“Bear” may be the word that you first teach your toddler. Once that word is mastered, you may move on to “fuzzy teddy bear”.] Set memorization to music or rhyme. [The alphabet song is a good example of this.] Use humor to lessen the intensity of the instruction. [“’B’ is for ‘bellybutton’! I’m going to poke your bellybutton! Poooooke! ‘B’ is also for banana, but your bellybutton isn’t the same thing as this banana, is it?”] Offer hands-on learning experiences such as modeling clay into shapes and identifying the shape and color of the clay. [“I like what you made with your clay! What is it? Oh! Nice horse! What color is your horse? It’s pink?! Very pretty! I don’t see pink horses very often, so this is a real treat!”]
- Enunciate your words carefully when you teach your toddler a new word. Your toddler will repeat what you have said, so ensure that your words are communicated clearly.
- Read to and with your toddler. Many books intended for toddlers have elements to capture and hold your toddler’s interest. These books may have pop-ups, textures (i.e., segments of fabric to simulate animal fur), or sound (i.e., push a button and a roar is heard when reading the page about lions).
- Use picture and word flash cards to teach new words to your toddler.
- Praise your toddler generously for right answers and also for incremental improvement. Do not criticize your toddler for incorrect answers. Praise may be, “That’s right! Good job! You’re really doing well! Good for you!” Praise may also be, “That’s close! You’re making progress! Let’s see . . . I’ll give you a hint to get you the rest of the way!”
By following the tips above, you can create successful educational experiences for your toddler.