Children aged between 1 and 3 years of age are considered to be experiencing their toddler years– the fundamental years where they begin to talk, crawl, walk, move, and play, among other things. During these formative toddler years, it’s important to introduce activities that build a foundation for academic development.
From learning numbers and letters to understanding the important concepts of sharing and self-awareness, the toddler years are made up of curiosities, exploration, and activity. It’s a time for children to explore their surroundings and become introduced to the variety of interests that their universe has to offer.
At Children’s Campus of Greenville, we understand how important it is to enrich the lives of toddlers by introducing them to new, exciting opportunities to learn each and every day. We’ve compiled some of our favorite ways to engage your little ones, providing a variety of enrichment activities to boost toddler academic development and prepare them for preschool and beyond.
During their early childhood years, toddlers experience a time of natural curiosity and the need to explore and learn. While they are infants, children experience advancements in physical growth as well as advancements in mobility and sensory recognition. During the toddler years, however, these developments of learning milestones dramatically increase as a child becomes more aware of themselves, their surroundings, and their ability to communicate.
Enrichment activities are the added opportunities for learning through playing, exploring, and interacting. For instance, a way to support a child learning about animals is to visit a zoo and give them real-world experience in how the animals look, move, and behave or a child learning about different types of food can experience food items firsthand through cooking or baking activities that encourage a further developed understanding of the concept of food and nutrition.
Enrichment activities support the learning that takes place in school and gives the child a better understanding of how to interact, engage, and understand through engagement in activities.
Through providing children with a variety of enrichment activities, parents, caretakers, and educators can help toddlers develop from curious individuals into fully formed problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and communicators. All of which are attributes important to functioning in preschool classrooms, home, and beyond.
Some of the fundamental concepts that toddlers learn can be taught through everyday enrichment activities– whether it’s when you are preparing lunch or going for a walk, there are endless amounts of opportunities to slip a learning opportunity in for your toddler.
Let’s explore some fun ways to engage your toddler’s curiosity to learn through activities meant to enrich their development.
Around 18 months to 2 years in age, children will usually begin to learn and identify colors. Additionally, toddlers begin to hone their fine motor skills, making an art-based project a fun one to explore with your child. Around this age, a child may or may not be able to hold and work a paintbrush, so finger painting is an alternative way to incorporate painting prior to being able to use a paintbrush.
The idea is to allow your child to create a visual piece of art with colors of their choice. Once their hands are washed up and the paint dries, using their picture, you and your toddler go on a scavenger hunt in your house, pointing to and identifying items in the home that use the same colors they chose in their painting.
For instance, if the painting includes yellow, red, purple, and green, you may find a green blanket or a green plant in the home. The yellow may lead to identifying a yellow notebook on the table, or a yellow toothbrush, and so on. Finding ways to connect art through additional enriching learning activities is a great way to engage your toddler, encourage exploration, and enhance their understanding of identifying different shades of the same colors.
The kitchen is a great place for learning. In addition to fostering an interest in the culinary arts like cooking and baking as you might for a school-aged child, toddlers can observe and help you in the kitchen in ways that can lead to learning opportunities.
At lunchtime, if you are making a sandwich, take out the pieces of bread and lay them on the counter. Identifying the shape of the slices of bread as square, the shape of the plate as a circle, and the shape of a juice box as rectangular can make lunchtime engaging and informative to your toddler. Repeating the activity each day with the same few items, then slowly incorporating new items of new similar and new shapes can make it a fun activity that your child enjoys and looks forward to.
Additionally, with the help of geometric-shaped cookie cutters, you can introduce other shapes like stars, hearts, triangles, and more. Using the kitchen as a central space in the home to explore different shapes, sizes, textures, and tastes are bonus learning opportunities to everyday habits and patterns like meal prep, cooking, cleaning, and other chores that your toddler can enjoy alongside you.
Making labels and signs around the home is a proven strategy to speed up word recognition and vocabulary development in toddlers. Start by making a sign with your child’s name on it and putting it on the door to their bedroom. If they share a room with a sibling, make an additional sign with the siblings name to also put on the door, and even a “mommy” and/or “daddy” sign on your own door, to establish not only word recognition, but boundaries associated with spaces in the home.
Using your toddler’s bedroom as a great starting point, label things like “desk,” “bed,” and “window” so that they can begin associating words with items as well as having letter recognition learning opportunities throughout the day. When you go into your toddler’s room in the morning or night, you can make a game out of word recognition, removing the labels from each item and then, one-by-one, having your toddler re-post the signs in their designated location.
This activity can begin in the sequence of first the name on the door of who the room belongs to, then large furniture items or focal points, followed by smaller items like “rug,” “chair,” “mirror.” Allowing your toddler to acquire more and more words and identify more objects over time as they continue to acquire more language and word recognition.
There is no better way to learn than to interact with your environment, and one way to learn about the Earth and all Mother Nature has to offer is by experiencing nature firsthand. Going on a family nature walk, where you have a list of items to find and identify can be a fun way to engage the whole family, including your toddler, in learning activities.
Toddlers will need very simple terms like “flowers,” whereas older siblings might have a more specific type of flower to identify. Your toddler may be tasked with finding a leaf, insect, or rock, whereas their older siblings might have to find a specific type of each. Additionally, you can incorporate fun nature exploration with other learning opportunities, such as finding a leaf that is green, another that is brown, and another that is yellow.
Finding ways to go out into the outdoors, whether a nature walk, a park, the beach, or your own backyard and identify items, colors, shapes, numbers, and words can enrich normal everyday activities into becoming learning activities, with the added bonus of making memories together as a family.
Most kids will take any opportunity to engage in make-believe fantasy play, so what better way to incorporate some learning opportunities into their gameplay to enrich their development. Most kids at one time or another will play that they are working at a supermarket, a clothing store, or an office of some kind. Cutting up pieces of paper, make fake paper money that can be exchanged during play. It’s important with toddlers to keep it simple at first, making each slip of paper only count as the number one. This way, they can become accustomed to understanding how many slips of paper to collect for their pretend job as a grocery store clerk or boutique owner.
Once they become familiar with counting in ones, you can incorporate larger numbers or different denominations based on their development and understanding of counting and numbers. Increase to $1 slips, $2 slips, and $3 slips for advanced or fast learners, encouraging them to count out items for sale at their cash register. The apple, banana, and pepper they have in their make-believe grocery mart each cost $1 each… so you can teach them that paying with three $1 bills, one $3 bill, or one $1 and one $2 bill would all be an effective way to collect from their “customers.”
Having hands-on experience in introducing numbers will help children be familiar with counting activities and more when they enter a preschool class.
Do you want to find new, fun, engaging ways to enrich your toddler’s learning activities? At Children’s Campus of Greenville, our curriculum for toddlers allows them to engage in a variety of activities– from art, music, language, and more, to extend their learning and development in social skills, motor skills, language acquisition, and more.
If you are interested in visiting our 5-Star child care center in Greenville, we would be happy to set up a tour! Please call us today at 252-756-8200 or fill out the form below to schedule your tour.