Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top 10 Toddler Learning Opportunities - No Planning Required!

I noticed that my last few posts made it look like there was a lot of planning and set-up required to facilitate learning for a toddler. There certainly can be, but toddlers can learn just as much on their own with a few open-ended toys and materials and some thoughtful guidance from a loving parent. I thought I would post some of the unplanned learning that took place in our house over the past few weeks.

#10 - Use the Environment

We were fortunate to spend a lot of time at the beach this summer, and there is so much to learn at the beach! Here are a couple of pictures of M exploring sea foam - how fun! You don't have to be anywhere special to learn from the environment. Take a walk around your house or to a local park. Notice interesting things - especially things that have different textures for your toddler to explore like bark, leaves, stones, dirt, etc.

#9 - Follow the Calendar

Did you know there was a Blue Moon last week?  We took a late walk out to the beach to watch the moon over the ocean - amazing! Watch the calendar and talk about changing seasons, phases of the moon, and constellations.


#8 - Pay Attention to the Weather

There was a tornado warning in our area while we were visiting the beach. Maggie Pulido (according to this news article) posted this picture of a water spout off Ponte Vedra Beach where we were staying! While we sat in the bathroom (interior room with no windows), we remembered the Twister ride we experienced at Universal earlier this summer. Again, it doesn't need to be something this extreme - just noticing whether it's sunny, cloudy, raining, or snowing helps to make your toddler more aware of weather patterns.

#7 - Make TV Real

There aren't a lot of people who don't watch TV with their toddler. We closely monitor what M watches, but she definitely has some favorite shows - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train... you get the idea. Most of these shows have a theme, and it would be fairly easy to expand on these topics by making crafts, reading books, or looking up videos on YouTube.

We happened to be watching an episode of Project Runway while we were at the beach (not usually a show that M watches, but we were without our DVR at the beach, and M was up late). They were "glamping," and M started asking questions about camping - Where do you sleep? What do you eat? Does a tent have doors and windows?

I happened to have graham crackers, chocolate and mini marshmallows in the pantry that I had bought for a different recipe, so I threw together some quick microwave s'mores for her to try. Yum!

#6 - Embrace Technology

There really are a lot of great toddler apps out there. M has learned very quickly how to operate my android smartphone (unlocking the home screen, navigating to the pages with her apps, choosing the app she wants to use, exiting the app when she's finished - it's pretty incredible). I mostly download free apps, but did purchase Kids ABS Letters and Kids ABC Phonics because she liked the Kids ABC Trains Lite so much (there are lite versions of all of these). Other favorites are Toddler Memory Lite, Kids Piano Lite, Kids Doodle, Toddler Musical Instruments! - Free Edition, Toddler Coloring, and the free versions of TabTales books (Goldilocks and Aladdin). Beware of ads (I deleted the Jumpstart app because it had gambling ads- ridiculous!) and make sure you have blocked in-game purchases (all purchases should be password protected if you plan on giving your phone to your toddler!).

Here you can see M listening to the sounds of different instruments (Toddler Musical Instruments), coloring a picture of the genie (Aladdin), and learning to use the touch pad on my laptop.

#5 - Teach Social Skills

Toddlers learn important social skills by watching how we, as parents, act around other people. I'm always careful to be polite when we are out- thanking the librarian for helping us find a book, telling cashier to have a good day as we leave the grocery store, holding doors for people behind us, etc.

I was amazed when we were at the library yesterday and M played for close to an hour with another little girl who spoke barely any English. Despite the language barrier, they played with the castle and dolls, worked on a puzzle together, played hopscotch, and put on a puppet show. I don't think she needs any lessons on tolerance!

#4 - Strew

We struggle with having too many toys, which is a really common problem these days. I have started trying to rotate toys and books, and by limiting the number of toys that are out at any given time, it helps M to focus on the few things are are more visible. As Sandra Dodd said, "I just strew their paths with interesting things." Laying out interesting toys, objects and materials in accessible locations can really peak the interest of a toddler.

Below is a picture of M playing with the Leapfrog Fridge Words. (As much as M loves the word builder, I can't recommend it because it occasionally says the wrong letter name, which is kind of a big deal.... I'm pretty sure they discontinued it for that reason anyway.) The other picture is her creation from a bin of magnets and pipe cleaners I left near the fridge (do you see Mickey Mouse?). It doesn't have to be anything elaborate - just set out something you think your child will enjoy. Interesting combinations are a favorite for M - play doh and beads, blueberries and toothpicks, shaving cream and bath toys.

#3 - Novelty

Take advantage of other people's toys! We love to go to the library because they have lots of toys (and obviously books) that we don't have at home. M can stay engaged so much longer because she has materials that she isn't normally exposed to. Libraries are a great (and free!) resource, as are children's museums, or friend's houses.

#2 - Go with the Flow

I love Montessori because it helps me prepare materials that will be interesting and engaging for M. I also love that it allows me to go with the flow and follow M in any activity she wants to do. She often combines the activities I have made to make them even better - or tosses them completely and makes up something of her own. 

When we were in Florida, M wanted to help cook pasta, but we didn't have her learning tower or an easy way for her to safely help with the meal. She decided to flip over a large plastic tub to make her own stove, and asked for a small pot and a wooden spoon so she could cook on her own. We threw in some of her laces as spaghetti.

The pictures below look planned, but I just quickly threw the materials onto a tray for a picture. I bought a cute small bud vase for M at Walmart, and put it on the shelf in her play kitchen (strewing...). When she noticed it she immediately wanted to go outside and pick some flowers. I was in the middle of attempting to show her the sandpaper letter b, but decided it was best to do what she wanted to do, and dropped everything to go pick flowers in the yard. It turned into a great practical life activity - picking flowers, using a funnel, pouring water, cleaning spills, arranging flowers. I'm glad I listened to her!

#1 - Teachable Moments

Take advantage of all the teachable moments! Mistakes, spills, times of frustration - these can all be turned into learning opportunities. Whoops, we spilled a whole bowl of dried beans on the floor! Let's practice cleaning up. Fortunately (unfortunately?) we have tons of these teachable moments every day - endless learning opportunities!

Linking Up With:
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

No comments:

Post a Comment