Growing and learning with toddlers
Grow; learn; play; help; water; home; shop; car; bus; learning; development; toddler; child; young; playgroup; group; playing;
Parents of young children want their children to get the best start they can in learning so they will do well at school and have successful lives. Often parents of very young children wonder what they can do to help their children get ready for their school time.
Learning does not just belong to school or formal lessons. Children learn very quickly in the earliest years and in many ways. They do not need to be "taught" to learn, (in fact too much "teaching" too early may put them off). They are learning from everything they do. However there are lots of things you can do to encourage and help your young learners.
This information may help parents and families by giving some ideas about things children enjoy, and by suggesting activities which you may enjoy sharing with your children. This is only a starting point. You know your child best, so use your own ideas about what your child can do and enjoys.
How children learn
Children are natural learners. They learn best when they are happy and when they have interesting things to do and safe places to do them.
The first and most important learning experiences happen in the family. Children learn from what they see, hear and do in the family and the wider community.
Parents and family members are in the best position to know what their children can do and what they enjoy. Children learn from:
- trying new things
- practising the skills they have learned.
Children do best where they feel loved and safe. Parents and families will be doing the best that they can for their children's learning by spending time with them and encouraging them to try new things.
Follow your children's lead when it comes to play. Do what interests them, when they are interested. Don't push them to do things when they don't want to. Play is most valuable to children when it is led by the child. If children are sick or tired or unhappy or not interested they may not be able to play and learn well.
While you are carrying out your everyday tasks at home let your children help you do things that they can manage and talk about what you are doing together. Don't expect young children to always want to do these things, there are many times when children enjoy making up their own games.
Toddlers learn by trying and doing.
Let your toddler:
- roll and knead bread or scone dough
- put toppings on pizzas
- help make cakes
- stir the mixture
- have another bowl and spoon and a small amount of the mixture to stir when you are making cakes. Your child may then like to taste the mixture from his own bowl. Children usually love cleaning out the bowl, which helps them learn that cooking is worthwhile.
Washing and Cleaning
- give you the pegs
- tell you which are their own clothes on the line
- use a cloth or feather duster to dust skirting boards
- hold the vacuum cleaner and vacuum a small area of carpet
- use a small broom to sweep floors
- carry rubbish bins out to the big bin.
- walk around the garden
- collect the letters from your letter box
- go for walks with you round the block, in a park, or on the beach - sing a song while you walk, ride or run along
- look at the cracks in the pavement
- look for different letterboxes, trees or houses, eg a house with a red roof
- play in a sand pit
- look at, touch and smell different plants
- collect leaves
- find stones and sort them into groups of big and small, rough and smooth, different colours
- kick a big ball with you
- find places to walk, run and slide
- roll down a hill. You can make a hill with large pillows covered with a blanket, or you may have a sloping area in the yard which is good for rolling or running down.
- dig with a garden trowel.
Always supervise your child when playing with or near water.
In the bath
- Help toddlers wash in the bath - talk or sing about body parts and making our bodies clean.
- Put a little food colouring in the bath and let your toddlers watch it colour the water.
- Play with boats and other bath toys.
- Have some plastic jugs to pour water.
- Talk about hot and cold taps.
- Fill and empty buckets of water outside.
- Water the plants/lawn with a hose or watering can.
- Stamp in puddles (wearing rubber boots or bare feet!)
- Stir water in buckets or bowls with spoons or sticks.
- Put things into buckets of water and watch them float or sink.
- Paddle in a paddling pool.
- Take a little time to sit and watch other shoppers.
- Look for signs, eg different shop signs, toilet signs, disability signs.
- Let your child post letters in a post box or at the post office.
- Read stories.
- Act out simple stories.
- Sing and say simple rhymes with your toddler.
- Let your child explore where it is safe, eg saucepan cupboards.
- Look at pictures of animals and make the animal noises.
- Play with musical instruments.
- Provide large cardboard boxes to crawl through and hide in.
- Make music with saucepans and wooden spoons.
- Have different old clothes for them to dress up in.
- Put on hats and look in the mirror.
In the car
- Give them something to eat and drink on the way - make it a "car picnic".
- Have some toys and books within easy reach. Note: if children get travel sick they should look at things outside the car, not inside.
- Play a child's cd and sing along.
- Point out interesting things you pass "Look at the train, windmill, aeroplane, horses, sheep etc".
- If it is a long trip, stop every little while and let your toddlers have a run in different places.
On the bus or train
- Check the bus number or the sign on the front of the bus that tells you where it is going.
- Look at the numbers of the stops or names of the stations.
- Let your child buy the ticket and click it in the ticket machine if possible.
- Talk about the safe way to sit and move on buses and trains.
- Talk about how the bell works.
- Look for animals, buildings, trees, windmills, other trains or buses.
- Count how many times the bus or train stops.
- Ask your child to tell you a story.
- Look for familiar things that tell you when you are nearly home
For more information and ideas about playing with your child in South Australia, you could contact your local:
- Child and Family Health service
- Local kindergarten
- Playgroup SA Inc (formerly the Playgroup Association) - has books about ideas for play - 1800 171 882
- Public library.
Your local kindergarten will usually have information about other resources in your area such as toy library, playgroup, kindergym. Even if your child is not going to kindergarten yet, the staff will be happy to help you with ideas about resources in your area. Your local council or library will also have good ideas about local resource, groups etc.
Learner, Claire & Dombro, Amy (2000) "Learning and growing together", Washington, Zero to Three A very useful guide for parents to social and emotional development in the first three years, with a special section on responding to children with different temperaments.
Today's Issues (2000) "How do children spend their time? Children's activities, school achievement, and well-being" in Today's Issues (11), Aug, 2000.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.