Your toddler is full of energy and curiosity. Because her brain is a sponge soaking up new experiences, it’s the perfect time to teach her skills that will carry her through life. You don’t need to send your little one to school in order for her to learn -- you have lots of ways to sneak in mini-lessons throughout the day. If she learns some basic skills, she’ll be on her way to success in life.
Toddlers have a reputation for occasional meltdowns. That’s because they don’t fully understand which behaviors are acceptable. You can’t expect perfection at this age, but you can help your little guy develop self-control. He needs to learn that even though he cries because he wants the cookie before dinner, crying won't bring him a cookie. Routines will help your child develop control. Redirect his inappropriate behavior. If he throws wooden blocks, say, “It’s not OK to throw wooden blocks, but you can throw these soft, foam ones.” Speak in a firm, calm voice. You are the best role model for self-control. Your toddler can take short time-outs to regain composure. Provide a comfortable spot for him to go and help him calm down.
Toddlers have short attention spans, but you can help your child stay focused for longer periods. According to a 2012 study conducted at Oregon State University, children who pay attention, follow directions and complete tasks do better than their counterparts later in life. Give short, simple directions as you get down to her eye level. Accompany the directions with other signals. For example, if it’s time to go to sleep, dim the bedroom lights. Engage in conversation with your child while she plays with blocks or looks at a book. This will encourage her to continue the task a little longer. Praise her when she sticks to a task such as putting a large, wooden puzzle together.
Toddlers are in the egocentric stage. “Mine” is a favorite word. Teach your child to share by example. When you’re eating a banana, ask, “Would you like to have some of my banana?” If she’s going to have a playmate over to visit, talk to her about how much fun it will be to share her new toys. Praise her when she shares so she sees it as a positive behavior. Teach her to take turns. Set a timer -- she and her little friend can switch dolls when the timer goes off. If her playmate’s toy truck breaks, remind her how badly she felt when her special toy broke. Suggest to your daughter that she give her playmate one of her toys to take home.
Your child might not be a little Miss Manners, but you can gradually teach her what’s proper and what isn’t. Give one direction at a time. Teach her not to put her feet on the table. When she’s mastered that, your next move can be teaching her to use eating utensils. If she hears you say “please” and “thank you” right from the start, they will become second nature to her. Give her attention when she displays good manners. When she opens a snack, remind her that the paper goes into the trash.
Provide your child with plenty of experiences to develop gross motor skills. He can learn to use his large muscles to throw and kick a ball, balance on one foot, jump and ride a tricycle. Provide opportunities for honing his fine, small-muscle motor skills as well. He can color, stack blocks or scribble on art paper.
Don’t push your child into reading or math -- that could take the joy out of it. Children learn through play and exploration. Have lots of colorful, interactive books within his reach. When you walk up stairs, count them out loud. Point out the “red” car, the “blue” sky or the “square” table. Read counting books. Provide a sensory table of sand and water where your child can use containers, cups and funnels to experiment with sizes, shapes and materials. Sort the big balls and the small balls, the yellow blocks and the green blocks.
- Zero To Three: Early Experiences Matter
- Education.com: Paying Attention -- What Does It Mean for Infants and Toddlers?
- Oregon State University: Preschool Children Who Can Pay Attention More Likely to Finish College
- Kids Health: Toddlers -- Learning by Playing
- Early Intervention Support.com: Gross Motor Skills for Toddlers
- Kids Health: Teaching Your Child Self-Control
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images