When you pull out the education tools and books, your toddler comes running with a delighted squeal because he loves a good challenge. His hunger for learning is greater than that of his big brother, who already attends school. You don’t need expensive, high-tech toys to teach your toddler, though there are many such tools available that are effective and useful. You might find you can make a few educational tools yourself -- even the simplest ones can stimulate your child's growth.
Hands-on tools allow your tot to experience learning through multiple senses. She can use poker chips to count. Magnetic numbers and shapes help her begin pre-reading skills. Paper geometric shapes enable her to recognize and name the shapes and figure out how they fit together. Toy tools such as hammers and tables with pegs, brooms, rakes, screw drivers and wagons work your tot’s fine and gross motor skills and teach her how to control her body. She'll feel a sense of accomplishment, too, as she makes the tools do her bidding to accomplish a a small task.
Craft supplies are a great learning tool for toddlers. Blunt nose scissors allow your toddler to learn how to cut straight lines and follow curves and corners. Your tot can learn how to mix colors with paint, so he figures out that red and blue make purple. He can use magazine pictures of faces to identify diverse characteristics of people. Manipulating paint brushes, crayons and markers helps him learn pre-writing skills.
Books of all kinds help you educate your tot. Workbooks can help her learn to count, identify letters, patters, colors and shapes. Stories help her learn about character traits, how to make good decisions, problem solve and explore social interactions. Young children enjoy stories. Ask her questions about the character, about what the character might do next or encourage her to find objects on a page. Your local library might have workbooks, picture and board books your tot will enjoy and learn from.
Many toys have an educational component, including those toys that allow your tot to role-play with you or other adult caregivers. Blocks will encourage his constructions skills while puzzles teach problem-solving skills and manipulation skills. Age-appropriate games teach your tot to take turns, follow directions and cooperate with other players.
Many children’s toy and education manufacturers create high-tech toys to entice your toddler to learn. Computers can help your toddler access learning software and sites your tot can use to learn colors, shapes, numbers, letters and electronic skills, such as how to manipulate the mouse and type on the keyboard. By the time your tot reaches first grade, she might know more about computers than you do. Always supervise children on a computer and make sure parental controls are activated.
- Fun with Mommy and Me; Dr. Cindy Bunnin Nurik
- Supporting Young Learners; High/Scope Educational Research Foundation
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