We all want what’s best for our kids, obviously. So we start them on the road to success a bit early. We read about some magical activity, food, type of music, educational program, or book that will magically boost our kiddo’s IQ and we’re off to the races. While there’s no proven toddler track to Harvard, you can help along your tot’s development with a few activities. Oh, and your little one will think they’re pretty awesome too :)
1. Label everything. Even though your toddler can’t read yet, literacy skills start developing early on. The first three years are super important when it comes to the basic building blocks of reading and writing. Labeling household items, such as the toy bin or desk, introduces your child to letters and helps her understand that words have actual meanings.
2. Create an obstacle course. Forget about the zig-zagging, slalom-y courses that the older kids rejoice in. Your toddler isn’t ready to army crawl through mud, skateboard around orange plastic cones, or hurl herself up a climbing wall. Not yet. But she can walk through a pillow path, run/toddle in a circle-ish shape around the yard, and walk on a painter’s tape line.
3. Sing songs. She already has an attention span about as long as a commercial break, and that means you need to do everything you can to make learning fun. Turn those little morsels of info that you can’t wait to share with her into sing-song rhymes. Clap your hands, make music, and magically transform everything from the ABC’s to the 123’s into verse.
4. Make “feelings” photos. Emotions aren’t always easy to express, especially for a toddler. Your two-year-old doesn’t have the self-regulation skills or the vocabulary to fully understand and appropriately express her emotions. Right now, you can help her to build a base by hanging pictures of people with different “feelings faces.” Happy, sad, angry, and mad are all emotions that your child can learn to read by looking at someone’s face. Point to the pics, ask your child what she thinks the person is feeling, and repeat.
5. Explore nature. Oh, how curious your toddler is. She wants to know how everything works and what everything does. Quench her curiosity for the natural world with a trek outdoors. Walk around your yard, down your street, or through a park, checking out the flora and the fauna. Point to plants, trees, and animals as you name them for your child. Now she’s learning new vocab words! Collect a few twigs, leaves, or pebbles and bring them inside to use for crafty collage creations.
6. Engage in artsy play. Crayons, finger paints, and modeling clay are all artsy ways that add a touch of developmental learning to your child’s day. She’s building fine motor skills as she smooshes finger paints onto paper, problem-solving when she tries to figure out how to tear a piece of clay into two, and building early literacy skills when she scribbles with crayons.
7. Make sensory bags. Throw together sensory bags or bins that let your little learner explore with all her senses. Cut up scrap fabric and make a texture-rich feely bag, use a few different scents (we’d suggest vanilla or lemon), or add jingle bells to a “listening bin.”
8. Talk — a lot. The more words your child hears, the richer her vocabulary will become. Not only is your tot learning new things to say, but she’s also starting to understand how communication works. You talk, she listens. She talks, you listen. Practice this over and over again every day. There’s no need to make special “talk time.” Instead, keep the conversation up throughout the day.
9. Play “Mommy Says.” Following directions isn’t easy — in fact, it’s pretty much the last thing your toddler wants to do. Play a “Simon Says” type of game where you or your S.O. give a direction that your child has to follow. Try this during your regular ol’ everyday life. Play as your kiddo gets dressed, eats breakfast, or walks around the mall with you.
What’s your toddler’s favorite activity? Share your pick and tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)