Toddlers are creative and unstructured bundles of energy. They’re moving through a whole new world and undertaking one of the biggest learning journeys of life: language. Language acquisition, reading body language and social cues, and using tone to express emotion when talking are some of the skills they are gathering that we take for granted as adults. Reading and writing are two very important skills all parents want their children to learn, and these methods will help make the journey easier for both you and your toddler.
The best way to facilitate your toddler learning anything is to be present with them. Put down distractions like your phone and laptop for a while. You are a role-model to your toddler and receiving encouragement and praise for activities like drawing lines and shapes in sand means the world to them. Reward them for their creativity wherever you can and encourage them to show off their work to other friends and family members. You can incorporate learning wherever you go, whether it’s reading stories at bedtime, pointing out numbers in an elevator or letters on licence plates. The more you do, the more input they’ll receive.
Moving around and exploring the world is not only good for keeping your toddler busy – it’s the best way for them to develop skills such as strength, hand-eye coordination and tactile processing. This can range from playing with balls and toy cars, to helping pull weeds in the garden or putting potato peels in the bin. Everything is play to toddlers; remember that everything is contributing to their development too. Using learning tools directed at helping toddlers recognise letters and numbers may be useful, though there are affordable home-made alternatives to many things you can find in stores, such as card cut-out numbers to stick on bedroom walls.
Things like play-doh and sand are amazing at teaching a toddler what they can do with their hands. This is the time that they really learn how to move things around using their body, as well as developing hand-eye coordination. Even stickers and fridge magnets will involve a level of manipulation with their hands as they improve how they stick things where they want them. This will act as a gentle introduction to moving a crayon around later.
It’s well known that toddlers learn through imitation. Think of who your toddler spends most of their time with and you’ll have identified their main source of learning. If that’s you – great! Let them see you reading and writing. “Expect curious eyes and questions, and soon enough you will see them trying to imitate you. You won’t find them writing legibly, but signs such as making lines in sand or asking questions about what symbols, letters and numbers mean are sure signs of imitation,” explains Amanda James, an educator at Essay Writing Service. Other ways to expose your toddler to letters and numbers in fun, explorative ways include trips to the library, allowing them to scribble “lists” when grocery shopping and using letter-shaped fridge magnets.
New tools are amazing to your toddler: they’re experiencing the ability to express themselves through creating for the first times in their lives. Crayons are a treasure here. Equally, paint-brushes and water-colours, sticks and sand and chalk on the ground… These are all things that will introduce your toddler to creating symbols through moving their hands. When they first get to grips with them, don’t worry about how they hold the tools or about writing actual letters yet – that will come after time. The best thing about using tools is that they allow creativity to bridge with learning.
As a final note, a study published in the journal Child Development, has given insight into how children begin learning skills for reading and writing from as early as three! These include noticing patterns in letter pairings and recognising word lengths. Your toddler is probably learning faster than you think. The methods detailed above will help you teach your toddler to write, but remember every toddler is different. Give them the freedom to acquire both reading and writing at their own pace. Good luck!
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