How much organized teaching should I be doing with my toddler or preschooler?
Real Mom Problem
“I don't know where to start. Should I set aside a certain amount of time daily for teaching?”
- 1. Remember that toddlers learn best through play
- 2. Structured learning or a more relaxed approach can work equally well, as long as you make it fun
- 3. Try not to compare your child's progress to other children's
Real Mom Solutions
As a mom, you're "teaching" your toddler by chatting with him, asking him questions, playing and reading with him, and just by living your day-to-day life and leading by example. However, some moms do set aside time for more formal teaching. Check out what strategies these moms of CafeMoms have used, and then determine what's right for you and your toddler.
Toddlers Learn Best Through Play
I don't think structured learning is necessary, especially if you can incorporate those lessons into playtime during the day. Mine did very well with reading, writing, and math through songs, games, crafts, and other activities we did at different times.
I've heard that the most important thing you can do is talk and engage your child in conversation. I don't think structured learning is at all important.
Children learn through play. They have years of learning. Just let them play. And have fun.
Toddlers Thrive on Structure
I believe structured learning is very important. Start building these things into them at a young age, like sitting still, listening, following instructions, reading, writing, they will more than likely love learning when they get into school, it will not be so new to them. Just because it is structured does not mean it can't be fun.
My husband, my mom, and I are all teachers. I completely agree that engaged learning is best (at ANY age, not just for toddlers). However, I also feel that there is no replacement for direct instruction. We work on reading, math, and science skills every day, even if it's just 5 minutes. Little ones have the desire!
Structure in my daughter's life is what has helped her become the polite, intelligent little girl she is. She is already reading. She can write her name. She is very artistic, and loves crafts. We have always used a schedule for learning time, play time, rest time, and mommy/daddy time. I think this also gives her comfort and security.
Try These Tips for Making Learning Fun
I try to make every day things/chores/activities into a learning experience. Teaching colors while doing laundry, math while cooking, ABCs and 123s while shopping. I also made Day of the Week cards that I have my 2 and 4 year olds rotate throughout the week, depending on the day. We play dress up and make believe. Color. Go to the park. Play in the sprinkler. Have story time. You just have to find activities that your little ones enjoy and find ways to make them educational.
We do a theme a week. For example one week our theme was yellow -- we picked wild yellow flowers, we played in lemon pudding like finger paint, I cut out a yellow circle, laid it on the floor and we went through the house and found everything yellow and put it on the circle, and we glued wadded up yellow tissue paper to a paper plate. It's not much but my son loves it! This week our theme is "Junior Chef" and we are coming up with things to "cook". He likes this week because he gets to eat everything he cooks.
We have been learning through structured play. We have games, songs and puzzles that we do to help learn things. We don't do it every day, but we do it a couple of times a week, and when he gets bored we move on to something else. I think there will be plenty of time for structured learning when they get in school.
I use a semi-structured approach with our toddler. We are a homeschooling family and education is extremely important to me. I try to let my daughter pick out her own topics and read stories and planned art projects based on that. That way I am able to incorporate a little bit of reading writing and simple math (stuff like adding butterflies or counting berries), but still hold her interest and not push her.
I think that the best thing to do is to teach them as you go about life at this age. When you are doing every day things you can work on colors. You can sign the alphabet song for fun throughout the day. You can teach them body parts as you give them a bath. We do a letter of the week. I find crafts and activities that are all about one letter and we talk about that letter a lot. They are all fun things and if they don't want to do them that is fine but if they want to cool.