The world is one big classroom for toddlers. ‘They love to master new concepts, so it’s the perfect time to lay the foundations for future skills,’ says child development expert Dr Erin Seaton.
Here’s how to get started...
MAKE A SHAPE BOOK
Many kids’ books teach about shapes, but you can go one better by helping your toddler make his own. Draw shapes on paper, then flip through magazines together and cut out items that match each one, says education professor Sherril English. Then go for a walk around your neighbourhood to look for other objects with distinctive shapes. Snap photos of the things your child points out, then print and paste the pictures in the book, labelling the shapes. Put multiple examples on a page to show that shapes come in different sizes.
Use descriptive language to help your child recognise colours (‘Can you put this yellow ball into the blue bin?’). For hands-on learning, let your child use finger paints and name the colours they spread on paper. Once the masterpiece dries, go on a hunt around your home to find items that match the colours used in the picture.
Around the age of two, your child may begin to recognise the letters of their name, so display it in your home – on the bedroom door and the fridge, suggests Dr Seaton. Talk about other words that begin with the same letter as their name (‘C is for Charlie, but it’s also for cat and cup’).
The act of comparing and contrasting objects is a vital part of early mathematics, says Dr Seaton. Fortunately, toddlers are master sorters. Ask your child to group their stuffed toys by type (cats in one pile, bears in another) or colour. See if they can separate your clean socks from theirs in the laundry, or have them put different sized spoons in their proper place in the cutlery drawer.
COUNT IT OUT
Your tot’s ability to count probably won’t come until preschool, says Dr Seaton. Bolster their number skills by tallying totals as you get them dressed (‘One, two, three buttons’). Count on your fingers and encourage them to do the same.