Back in the winter, I did a post on my must-have toddler favourites, which you can view here.
Today, I want to share our must-haves for toddler development. I am not an expert in early childhood education or development, so I am sharing this as a mom who has found a few things that work well in our house (and not to brag, but I like to think my kid is pretty smart, LOL). So let’s get down to it!
Number 1: Books
You never go wrong with reading to your children; or even finding books that they can thumb through themselves. In our house we use books to entertain, inspire and teach Paige.
A great entertainment book is The Book with No Pictures. It’s an interactive book that always leaves Paige in a fit of giggles. This one works best with toddlers older than two because they have to understand why you’re telling them all sorts of silly things. I also find the Dr. Suess books to be on the entertaining side, but they can also have some teaching moments, too.
When it comes to inspirational books, I love anything with a strong role model, and in our case, we focus on female role models. We love:
- The Little People, Big Dreams series (you’ll hear me rave about them over and over again);
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I loved the show and having a kids book to share with Paige is so awesome); and
- The Hilda graphic novels (for any child that loves adventures, this series will have you going on all sorts of them).
To teach Paige we look for books that have lessons in them – The Berenstain Bears series is great for this. We’ve collected dozens of Bear Family stories and when it comes to teaching Paige some sort of lesson we usually look to the Bear Family for help. Some great ones that we have used in our home are Forget Their Manners, Get the Gimmies, Trouble with Money and Tell the Truth. There are many more that you can use, especially as your children enter school or if you have more than one child – there are so many lessons to be learned from Brother and Sister Bear.
Number 2: Sensory Activities
In our home, we encourage Paige to learn and explore in as many ways as possible and have started to use sensory activities to encourage scientific discovery.
Before looking for specific sensory activities, I did a little research to determine the purpose and best forms of sensory play. I learned that the purpose of using different senses to play is to encourage the use of scientific processes to learn and explore. Well, this was a no brainer for us – Paige is in love Marie Curie, so being a scientist is at the top of her list right now! Sensory play can be found in so many forms, but here are a few ways we’ve done it in our house:
- Water Beads: These are great objects that allow Paige to develop her investigative skills. I love to hide things in the beads for her to find and she’s really taking to mixing the beads between bowls and seeing what she can find and hide in different bowls.
- Play Doh: Play Doh is fabulous for sensory play – Paige is always creating new things and discovering new ways of making things with Play Doh.
- Cooking/Baking: If you’ve seen my instagram or the recipes I post, you’ll notice that I do a lot of cooking and baking. As a stay at home mom, Paige is usually right there with me during the cooking and baking adventures. I use this as an opportunity to show Paige how different things mixed together to create something new (our very own chemistry lessons).
Number 3: ABCs and 1,2,3!
Learning your abc’s and numbers is the first step to reading and writing, so we do a lot of teaching the alphabet and numbers in our home. We started with flash cards, but Paige wasn’t all that engaged in the flash cards (she’d only look through for a bit before becoming bored). So, we looked for new ways to engage her.
For Christmas last year, we got Paige this Elmo letters travel case, and since Paige loves Sesame Street, through the book series, this was a big hit.
The biggest impact came when we started watching Super Why on Netflix (if you’re not watching this show with your toddlers you’re missing out!!!). The series focusing on a group of “Super Readers” who use books to solve problems and have to use the alphabet along the way! Paige started watching the series earlier this year and after a month or so of watching the series Paige was able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet and since about July she’s been working on recognizing letter sounds. If things keep at the pace they’re going we’re hoping to start with sounding out words in a few months time, but we’ll see how she does (there’s no rush).
When it comes to numbers, play phones are the easiest thing to use!! Paige has a VTech desk – the desk will tell you to dial specific number and then “phone” different people. Another tool is the Leap Frog Music Mat that makes learning numbers a game, and Paige loves it!
Number 4: Colouring!
We love arts and crafts time in our house and so does Paige (now if only she’d get over her plan to colour walls, couches and other furniture different bright colours, lol). We use colouring and drawing for a couple reasons in our house.
First, we use it to develop Paige’s dexterity. We have worked on Paige drawing specific shapes, which has gone really well; and we’ve recently started focusing on drawing inside the lines of pictures. It’s a work in progress, but we love that she loves to try to do it. As well, I’ve started writing out letters of the alphabet and having her trace them (she’s not great at this, but again she’s trying and having fun, which is all that matters to us!)
Secondly, we use colouring as a means of self-expression and exploring her imagination. I love hearing the stories Paige tells me she’s writing or having her explain the details of the drawing she’s making (all of these are completed illegible to the naked eye, but the fact that she sees all this in her art is magnificent).
We really want Paige to focus on well-rounded skills and I love artistic expression, and I’m so happy that Paige loves it, too!
Number 5: Make Believe
I believe it is so important for every child to spend time playing make believe or dress up and having endless dance parties! The development and use of a healthy imagination allows us to explore other identities, encourages emotional development and brain development through story telling and so many other great things.
Paige loves playing dress up – right now we’re really into playing “school” and She-Ra (it’s a show on Netflix about a group of princess heroes with magical powers). A few times each day, Paige requires that we call her Glimmer (a She-Ra character) and we regularly use spells to do any number of things in our house. The character play does wonders for emotional development. Last month, we went on a hike, and coming back down, Paige was getting really scared, so we decided that Paige was a character for She-Ra and she channeled that character’s bravery to help her finish the hike. There is no limit to the things that children can learn through their imaginations!
And, there you have my top 5 toddler development must-haves. I hope that this gives you some ideas for development activities with your little ones; and I’d love to here from you what you’re favourite development activities are with your kids! You can leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on Instagram!
Have a great rest of your week – talk to you all again soon!