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Toddlers and education

Posted by sheesharee (My Page) on
Sat, May 10, 14 at 1:35

DS will be two soon. He's a little sponge and I'm looking for ideas - books, info., activities, etc. I can do to further his education.

He's known the alphabet, like you and I thoroughly know the alphabet, since he was 16 months. His favorite toy since Christmas has been foam bathtub letters that he drags around! He knows his numbers only to 14 and understands the concept of counting. He knows most colors, shapes, and can name body parts. He knows many animals and their sounds. He's really putting words and sentences together. He really likes books and we read to him all the time. We used to do art projects more, but not much recently. I figured it would be good to work on his name, but other than that I'm not sure what else to do.

Someone recently mentioned starting him in preschool now and we've decided against that. DH commented to me, "He's doing great. Just let him be a kid." I agree, however, since DS is willing, I would like to continue working on things with him. (We are considering having him go to preschool the year before kindergarten.)


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RE: Toddlers and education

I consider reading to and with a young child almost the most important education s/he will ever receive, as it is literally the foundation of everything to come. The fact that you're reading and your son loves it is great!

Unless the home is deprived in some way, "school" for toddlers is all about learning to play with others, line up, eat a snack on command, sit quietly in a group for story time, separate from mom for a few hours, etc. Those are important skills for kindergarten but at two they aren't really necessary. If you are a SAHM and can join a play group or a mothers' morning out program for a few hours each week you should have the same benefits as preschool at this age. Two to four kids is an appropriate number for a group of toddlers.

Getting together with other kids is a double edged sword, though, because it may or may not be that much fun for your kid. Some of the other children may be mean and grabby (or hitting or biting) or just plain not ready for it, and I don't think a two year old has or needs the ability to deal with that kind of thing. You may not want him learning the kinds of behaviors he may need to employ in those settings! And in closer contact with other children yours will suddenly get sick more often with coughs, colds, etc. Usually the first year of preschool is a nightmare of stomach bugs, sniffles and green snot--- because other parents take their kids to school with fever, colds, and and I've even seen a parent drop a kid off at preschool with the instructions to the teacher to let her have an extra nap "because she was throwing up at five am this morning and is tired." !!

At your child's age, reading, playing games and with age appropriate toys (or "raw materials" like water in the bathtub, cardboard tubes from paper towels, paper, etc), and carefully supervised play groups or other group settings such as Sunday school or an art or music class, and at LOT of outdoor play constitutes the perfect life. Percentage wise worldwide, few children get to experience that kind of life and I'd say yours is VERY lucky.


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It sounds like you have the cognitive areas covered well. I will second reading aloud to him, playing games any face to face interaction where he is saturated with language will benefit him the most. The other area preschool's focus on is fine motor. You could start him tracing those shapes, cutting shapes out with a scissors--writing prep as it were. The other thing my kids loved were memory games. I took all those metal juice caps and taped identical pictures of them/us on one side and we played the matching game where we found the two that are same. This game is found on most computer kids crap. Don't get sucked into setting him down in front of these things to work on his own. It is not the same!! Interaction, imagination, language are most important to his development. I 100% support NOT sending a two year old to "school". Your time at home with him is very short. Do not throw it away. He needs every moment you can spend with him!!


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I think social time with kids his own age is very important at this age. I would arrange playdates at least once a week for him. One thing my grandson loves to do is listen to music and sing songs.

Sounds like you are a great mom. Happy Mother's Day tomorrow!.
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I always took my little granddaughter to Storytime at the library. It was once a week and they read a few books, letting the kids be interactive by guessing or moving felt pieces on a board, sang and danced to songs, then did a craft. We both loved it. After, we would read a few books ourselves, do puzzles, or play with the children's games on the computer.

Our library has two different Storytimes, one for toddlers with their limited attention span and one for older pre-k children.

I've always taken my 2 grandchildren to the library. Our Children's section is in the basement and offers such a welcoming, enveloping feeling of comfort and security. In fact, my 11 year old GS called me up just this week asking me to pick him up and take him. Both of them now have a real feeling of familiarity in the library and know how to find books from the now-computerized card catalog.

As an aside, your son is 2???? Impossible!


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Some great suggestions here. I would not purchase a single workbook -he will likely be burned out by second grade if he starts using them now. Instead, give him the kind of education that school can't provide. Make everything hands on and fun. Let him cook with you. Plant a garden and then maintain it daily, talking about what is growing, how big it's getting, etc. Make playdough together. Encourage his imaginary play by giving him old clothes of your husbands, costumes, etc. Build, build, build, build and build some more. A tree house if you have the space, etc., a fort over the dining room table, duplos, wooden blocks, lincoln logs. Have puzzles set up all the time on a spare table. Do some 'how things work' projects. Take apart an old alarm clock, old cell phones, etc. Go to the zoo, the woods, the beach, the lake, etc. frequently. Put a large map on the wall and talk to him about it a couple of times a week.


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I learned to read by the time I was 3, and it sounds like your son is ready too....my cousin has a computer game on the ipad which his son started using before he was 2 that was already putting sounds to the letters and he was learning to read words. I also learned my addition and times tables at an early age. Things that have to be learned by rote are so much easier when you are young. While social skills are certainly important, while his brain is growing quickly and if he's willing to learn and enjoys it, there's no point in not feeding his mind as well as his body and heart.

The other thing that I find so striking is simply exposure to words from speaking is very important in reading comprehension, and that leg up remains with the child through the rest of his educational years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Language gap


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I totally agree with kswl and also the suggestion about the library. Our library has several child related activities a month. Contact yours and get a schedule if they have such a program. I know kids are tested on certain things before entering kindergarten. I'm not sure what all they are tested for - name, phone number, tying shoes, etc. I think are some of the things. Maybe you could find out from a friend/relative and work on those things.

tina


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There really isn't anything you need to "do." It bothers me to no end when I watch a commercial for ABC Mouse and the parents talk about "learning" as though it is separate from everyday life, and that their children are finally learning with the computer program. (Not saying you say/think this, but these kinds of ideas put pressure on parents!)

As your son has shown you, he already learns and will continue to do so. All you need to do is be with him, give him opportunities for exploration, and have fun. You don't have to teach him anything specific.

Even though he is academically advanced, the absolute last thing you want to do is put him in any class where they have formal academics. It should be completely play-based. If you want to do things with him involving reading and writing, write down what he says and make books together. Simple, and no pressure if his attention strays. And, like you are already doing, read. Use math in everyday activities.

And gosh, even reading! With my 2nd daughter, we read to her very,very little . . .nothing compared to the first. (I had a 3rd baby by the time my 2nd was 22 months old.) And you know what? She was reading and writing by the time she was 3. So, take the pressure off yourself.

2 is so little-- really, just a baby. It is hard to believe that, until you see them older. Then you realize how young 2 really is.

My recommendation would be classes you can attend together (if you just want to get out and have someone else set things up). Look for those that involve all the senses, or something like My Gym.

Also, when it comes to school, I felt a LOT of angst re: what was appropriate, esp. for my oldest. She was way past what others did, so we homeschooled for the early years after we tried a grade skip. I think that was the right decision. Now she is in middle school, and there are many opportunities that are more open-ended (and accelerated classes), so it is great for her. School in the early years can be tough, esp. for anyone not in the norm. If you can afford something like Montessori, I would look into that.

My absolute favorite mom (well, apart from my own, ha, ha) is one I am linking below. She has so many activities and ideas that are fun for the whole family, and a great outlook.

Happy Mother's Day (almost)!

Here is a link that might be useful: Magical Childhood


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Hi Sheeharee, I'm a K teacher and like others I suggest focusing on play, reading and spending time with family. If you want to spend time on academics, I would look at letter sounds and number meaning rather than just recognition. Many parents tell me their child knows the alphabet or numbers and will be bored in the K program if we continue to work on those. I usually find that while they can recognize them, they don't know the "meaning" of them. I use an inquiry based program and do much more with language and math than is standard (for my area anyways). For example, what is 5? Counting out blocks, drawing pics of five things, five is made up of 4 things and 1 more thing, or 2 things and 3 more things, five is how many fingers or toes, five is how many stairs in the hall, etc.

PBS dot com has the Curious George section where there are many amazing ideas to keep little minds expanding. In my classroom I do weekly challenges during free play time and I get many ideas from this site. I've had them make maps (real and imaginary), nests for various animals, traps to catch different things (leprechauns, fairies, etc), bridges, boats, and so on.


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So your li'l punkin isn't quite two, but when mine was 2.5 he was so ready for the "2-day 2s", 2 hours, twice a week for 2yr olds. My older didn't go till he was 4, but the younger was just ready for the stimulation. It's a just-right amount of time, and we still had puhlenty of time for everything else at home. We'd also gone to the family drop-in center, with unstructured but teacher-led playtime, while the moms chatted in the lounge, or observed their kids, or played with them, etc.


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I am a retired elementary school teacher. It sounds like you are doing wonderful things with your son. I also love a lot of the suggestions here: cooking, reading with him, building, singing and listening to music, gardening. Time outside in a natural setting, whether it's at a beach or in a park or in your yard or going for a short stroll in the woods is wonderful also. All of these are things that I remember doing as a small child and loving doing and will be teaching your child without needing to be any sort of formal lesson. Having a sandbox or small pool with different sized and shaped cups is also great. (You would be surprised by how many elementary aged kids think the tall skinny container has more volume than the short wider one, just because they never spent much time playing with water or sand and containers.) At this point in his cognitive development, hands on experience with things is going to be the most important part of his learning. Tactile feedback, whether from the squishy foam letters or playdough or sand is great and manipulating items is good for fine and gross motor coordination. Some social gatherings/play dates with other children are helpful as well, especially if he is an only child. It will make eventual adjustment to preschool and/or school much easier if he has spent time with other kids.

I have also read a fair amount of research that indicates that electronic screen time for preschool children is best avoided or severely limited, whether it is TV, computer, electronic games or tablets. It isn't a substitute for real world experiences in terms of brain development.


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I think you are doing a wonderful job and just keep having fun with him. As a former kindergarten teacher, I have to say sometimes I wish parents spent less time and energy encouranging early reading and math and more time on the basics like self zippering and tying shoes. It amazes me how so many three year olds who can read can not zipper their own coats or put on mittens and hats. Even second graders can not tie shoes or ride a two wheeler. These actions are more important than the abc's. 2 year olds are parrots so the rote learning is commonly achieved and 3 is the average age in my district for reading but I think the really smart kids can master the things todays parents seem to no longer teach like shoe tying, self dressing and riding a bike sans training wheels. These skills are more impressive and today help a child stand out in a positive way in school as they foster independence and support large and fine motor skills.

This post was edited by roarah on Sat, May 10, 14 at 16:57


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I think fine motor skills and sensory play would be good and fun things for any child. Cooking/mixing/working in the dirt and in general just life skills. Find and name bugs in the yard, look at things through a magnifying glass to see how things changes. Mixing of colors and how they make new colors. And let him do it on his own. Teach him life skills. I know at that age helping with all house chores was a lot of fun to my daughter, and it taught her valuable skills too. Matching socks together, folding (fine motor skills), putting things away (organizing), sorting laundry (we do dark, light, red and pink, jeans, etc. - not just colors, but shades of color).

My daughter starts Kindergarten in the fall and she has been reading since late last year as she was obsessed with letters since a toddler and knew it like your son. She more or less has figured out the reading on her own - I was not encouraging it. Figured she'll learn eventually anyways and nice to be able to spell things around her that we no longer can and not worry about what advertising etc. says, billboards, newspaper and other things I don't always want her to ask about or understand yet.

Anyways we have used grocery shopping as a big learning experience as she has been growing and now that she can read and write she also helps make the grocery list. It may not always be spelled correctly or some letters are backwards, but I think just using everyday life stuff to learn is a good thing. She is now doing additions and subtractions too thanks to some of that and learning about dollars and cents and how much things costs. Learning money and how many of a certain type make up a dollar. Around 3 she started learning about numbers being higher or less than something as if she behaved I'd let her have a $1 or $5 and she had to find something that cost less than that (not a regular occurrence).

Now we weigh produce at the store and are learning how to read the scale. Learning about money as in reading price tags better. She tends to read $1.95 as $195. Looking at what is cheaper and more expensive and comparing products. Reading ingredients and learning if a product has dairy in it or not (she is allergic).

Recipes are awesome for math skills and fun too. I bought her a color coded measuring cup set that she could use as little and then we matched recipes and she colored next to it and then she knew what to use.

Just so much you can throw in with everyday life. If she doesn't want to do the learning part though I don't force her. Only do it when she wants to at this point as I don't want to force her to do it.

I do know my daughter was a social butterfly as a toddler. She even potty trained her friend before they were both two so I think social interaction is important with other kids. They didn't necessarily play with each other, but more along side. But what one did the other copied etc. They interacted differently, but play dates was very important.

I think life skills at a younger age is fun for them. My daughter is so proud of herself for making dinner tonight for us. I only helped with putting it into the oven and taking it out. She did all the rest. She just loves doing that kind of stuff. Of course once she's mastered something and has been doing it for a while the novelty wears off and she doesn't want to do it. That is when it transfers to being a chore to her, but once she's learned she's not off the hook.


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Real quick...you're all wonderful. I knew there would be lots of ideas here.

I don't have enough time right now to properly respond, but hopefully will tomorrow or Monday the latest.

Happy Mother's Day!


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There is a great book called Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready with a lot of age appropriate activities.

If you have room for it, an easel with a white board is a great thing for drawing on, helps to develop muscles.

When stuck for reading ideas, look into Jim Trelease's book called the Read Aloud Handbook.

Happy Mother's Day.


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Good suggestions, and I would also like to add that coloring is a really good thing to do with a kid that age. I work at a preschool (3-4 yr olds) and there are so many kids that do know their letters, numbers, colors and shapes, but mention that their hands and fingers are tired and don't know what to do with crayons. Kids just don't seem to color much anymore. The ones that seem more familiar with it are way ahead on other fine motor work as it is introduced.


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As for social interaction, it will be parallel play for a good bit of time yet, so I see no hurry for that.

We had all three of our kids in a 1/2 day, 3x a week "creative play" program when they were 2.5, at a Cooperative preschool. They loved it and it was age appropriate, and because of the Coop structure my DH or I were there helping in the class room often.

My DS was fascinated by letters at a very young and was an accelerated reader before K. Some kids read mechanically at that age, but he read for content and was tested on it. Even so, we were told there was no real advantage to being an early reader. I found that so hard to believe, but a lot of research apparently supports that.

And so does my DD1. She liked to be read to, but would not try to read ... she insisted from a very young age that she already knew how (though she did not). It was so funny! Anyway, she learned to read quite late, but by grade 3 totally caught up and was advanced.

So, I would not focus on reading goals per se, but on enjoying time together and sharing with him as much as possible, your daily life and chores. I believe it is the most organic and useful and satisfying way to spend time with one's children.


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Adding that two of my three kids still like to be read to, and we all enjoy audio books. DH and I are always reading something to each other, so that oral reading tradition lasts a long time. I believe kids should also read aloud themselves as it helps with speaking fluency.


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Kswl -" A few of my friends have small children and I also have a nephew close to DS’s age. We see them on a pretty regular basis. He seems to be getting to an age where he really enjoys being around other kids and gets excited when I tell him we’re going to see so and so today. Unfortunately there aren’t any small children at our church.

“Getting together with other kids is a double edged sword, though, because it may or may not be that much fun for your kid.”
There is one little girl that he doesn't seem to mesh with and I've limited contact. She’s friendly but VERY in his face. Until recently he would completely ignore her. I found his reaction interesting because he wouldn't do that with anyone else.

I’m not really looking forward to all that comes with school. I’m mainly talking about the interaction with other kids and their families. I’m praying to find balance so I’m an informed parent, but not a hovering, smothering one as he grows.

Arcy - Ah, memory games is something I've been meaning to start doing with him!
I agree with you about the computer games and tv. We actually only have one computer and our phones are stripped down basic phones. I got rid of the internet and texting quite a few years back (DH never cared to do either). I know I would certainly get used to and enjoy a fancy phone, but I honestly find it challenging enough to manage my time wisely without the extra distraction; which is what it would be for me. As for technology, at some point I know we’ll need to make some adjustments or be left in the dust.

Roseabbey - Thank you!
We try to see that he has that interaction with small kids most weeks.
He loves to sing and dance! I've noticed he’s starting to ‘joke’ around more recently which is pretty cool. We’re really seeing his personality come through.

Deeinohio - I didn't think about a library because ours are pretty far away, but I don’t mind a drive. I’m going to look into that!
The age thing is blowing me away too!

Bestyears - “Make everything hands on and fun.” Sounds good. He really likes to help so we’ll keep going with that. He gets a kick out of helping unload the dishwasher (counting silverware) and when I announce I’m going to vacuum he excitedly puts his toys away and runs to pull out the kitchen chairs!
Great ideas!

Annie - “I learned to read by the time I was 3…” That’s awesome!
“my cousin has a computer game on the ipad which his son started using before he was 2 that was already putting sounds to the letters and he was learning to read words.”

See, now this is when I start to question if it’s time to buy an ipad. Of course I wouldn't use it as a keep busy for him, but having a program with the sounds and letters in some type of format sounds like it would be better than me doing it. I’m having a hard time finding the words for what I’m trying to say here so I hope it makes sense.
Thanks for the link! Great article.
From the link, “…literacy experts emphasize the importance of natural conversations with children, asking questions while reading books, and helping children identify words during playtime.”
That’s good to know. In the past I wondered if that was enough or if I should be breaking out flash cards and doing more, but when we started making a conscious effort to talk with him more about every day things and would ask him questions we discovered he knows, and understands, much more than we realized, or that he can even express.

Tina - I’m going to check out the libraries! I think he’d like being involved with activities there.
I was asking about how kids are tested recently, but need to find someone closer to our area.

Anele - Yes, there have been days of seeing the good old ABC Mouse commercials that it left me feeling like a slacker parent until I really thought about it! Pfft.
I like the make a book idea.
Thank you for the link! I’ve never seen her site before. Great post!

Daisychain - I will definitely look at the Curious George section on PBS.

Bpathome - We may end up sending him to preschool before we planned. We’ll keep an eye and see how he continues to progress.

Nhbabs - Thanks for the additional ideas. We don’t have a sandbox yet, but have been talking about that. He loved the beach and I’m sure he’d really enjoy it.
I wish I could get him to stay standing on a chair to ‘help’ with cooking, but that’s one thing he’s currently not interested in.

Roarah - “more time on the basics like self zippering and tying shoes. It amazes me how so many three year olds who can read can not zipper their own coats or put on mittens and hats.”
I just had this conversation with someone the other week and realized this is something I want DS to be able to do earlier than later. I wish more shoes would have strings instead of Velcro! The few he owns with strings are almost too short for me to tie. I may have to purchase longer ones in the future.

Lyfia - Matching socks, sorting, etc. are things I never thought about either. Thanks!
Lots of great ideas - loves the idea about money, comparing, and scale reading, etc.

Tishtoshnm - Thanks for the book recommendations.
We have a Melissa & Doug chalkboard/dry erase easel and he currently seems to prefer this over coloring with crayons.

Myfoursquare - I’m hoping he takes more interest in coloring. I really enjoyed it as a kid.

Mtnrdredux - That sounds great that you were both able to help in the class room at preschool.
Thanks for sharing the stories about how your two sides learned at different rates.

There were lots of wonderful thoughts and ideas here that I plan to incorporate. We’ll focus on keeping it fun. A big thank you to everyone!


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RE: Toddlers and education

A tip for teaching a preschooler how to tie shoes is to take two different colored laces, tie them together and have the child step on the knot and learn the process by tying around their foot, or put the two different colored laces through a small shoebox and they can learn to tie that way. There are also books that have a picture of a shoe with longer laces too, but making your own "shoe" is cheaper! Kid's shoes definitely are hard to learn on, like you said, their laces are so tiny and short. The two different colored laces are great so they can follow where each lace goes in the process.


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Some other ideas came to me today:

*Pattern blocks. These are fun to play with. I have a link below. The company also has trays that you can purchase for doing things in. The plastic blocks fit better in the trays but I really liked the wooden blocks too. I would bring them out periodically for them to play with or if they asked. I did not leave these out though as my kids would have made a mess.

*Wee Sing CDs. They have many different themes and are done well.

*Handwriting without Tears has some good preschool stuff. The CD of songs is fun and has some on manners (like shaking hands, etc). They have crayons that teach kids how to grip properly. Some of the activities may be better a year or so from now.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pattern blocks


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Myfoursquare - Great idea about laces. Thank you!

Tishtoshnm - Those blocks are neat. Thanks for the additional ideas!


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Shee, this is another fun site I've used. . .

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing a Jeweled Rose


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If you choose preschool for your Two, find one with a small class. Mine was in a group of 5 or 6 kids, with two teachers, and it was just like a little family. I was an inclusion aide in park district preschools, and 12 or more 2 yr olds in a room got a little stressful, for the kids and the teachers. For older kids a larger size is ok, but toddlers seem to be a bit overwhelmed and tune out the big group.

Oh, for music, look for Trout Fishing in America at the library or online, those guys crack us up, especially "Wheels on a Big Rig".


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I was reading the responses here and tishtoshnm's recommendation of the Wee Sing music caught my eye. My children all LOVED this series, both the music cd's and the videos. Just last week my 27 year old DD, who is a software consultant on an assignment in Pittsburg, sent me a "remember this text with an mp3 of a clip from the song "Backwards Land" from the Turn On the Music CD. Her education is in math and science and she has a fantastic job in her field, and she still remembers those CDs. Her hobby is playing drums--- rock and jazz, not kiddie songs, lol :-)

So I guess I am saying you never know which bits of your kid's childhood will inform his future, so exposure to a breadth of experience and culture and just silly fun is worth all the effort.


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