The primary responsibility of parenthood is to teach children how to cope with life. They need you to equip them with skills that they can use to live successful lives. Teaching a child starts when they are young. Toddlers and preschoolers are at a good place where they can be taught basic skills to help them cope with going to school.
Start with social development skills to help them adjust to different situations. They should have enough judgment to be able to trust and listen to adults, but still be able to identify dangerous situations and avoid them, or report them to you. By equipping them with these skills, they will be able to stand up for themselves in the playground and accord caregivers the respect they deserve. Here are a few ways you can achieve this:
- Create social situations where they can relate with other children and adults. Organize play dates where you invite other parents with their children and socialize.
- Teach them to follow basic rules and encourage them to share.
- Encourage them to avoid tantrums and express themselves with words when they are offended
- Teach them to talk about anything with you and express coherently how they feel about things that are happening around them.
- Teach them to be gentle with pets and the people around them including other children.
- Good manners should be a part of their behavior, words like thank you, excuse me, sorry, and please should be a consistent part of their vocabulary.
- Reward positive behavior when they respond to these attempts at teaching them social skills.
- Create situations for the toddler to display their talents and strengths. Encourage them to try many activities, and when they find something they like, support them to build their skills in it.
- In the process of helping them explore their talents, teach him/her that there will be other children better than him/her in particular disciplines, and the importance of respecting other people’s talent. Teach them to praise other children for their great performance.
Encouraging Physical Development in Toddlers
Physical development is another aspect that you should help your toddler with. Your child needs to develop their motor skills and attain good balance and coordinating hand and eye movements. This will help them to enjoy sports in school and be good at using writing tools.
Young preschoolers are naturally overflowing with lots of energy. It should not be too hard to encourage them to engage in activities that will help out with their physical development. It is the best time for their development since their energetic approach to moving around will help build and refine their large and small muscle groups. In toddlers, large motor skills, also known as gross motor skills, are the first skills to develop. This answers why toddlers who are between 2 to 4 years of age do a lot of running and jumping around.
The best way to teach your toddler to improve motor skills and eye to hand coordination is to take them out.
- Take them to places such as the park where they can run and jump around. Open spaces excite kids. They posses an innate desire to cover as much space by running around. Play throw and catch with them to help them practice their eye and hand coordination.
- Take them to playgrounds where they can practice climbing and balancing on monkey bars and slides. Playgrounds are always a fun way to help them vent out all the energy that they have. Encourage them to play in the sandbox and give them sandbox toys to help them develop their motor skills while manipulating the toys.
- Take them swimming. Children just love the water. Take them to your local neighborhood pool or set up your own baby pool in the backyard so they could swim and splash away. You may even play around with sprinklers or a running hose to encourage running and splashing around puddles.
- Take family walks where you can encourage them to run, walk, jog and march. Play fun games along the way like “I Spy”. Organize a collection game like collecting leaves or feathers to keep them distracted while you walk a little distance.
- Buy them a set of non-toxic chalk which they can use to draw and doodle on your courtyard to encourage the development of their fine motor skills.
- Take them out on their first tricycle ride or scooter and go exploring your park in the neighborhood.
Encourage them to play even when you are indoors and at home:
- Buy them a rope that they can skip with, play ball with them and ride bicycles with them. Activities which encourage kicking, throwing and catching are good for their physical development.
- Create an obstacle course in your living room or even in your backyard by making use of your cushions or old cardboard boxes that your child can crawl through, skip or climb over.
- Play pretend games with them. Pretend games can develop their imagination as well. Ask them to walk like a chicken or jump like a bunny and gallop like a horse. Ask them to imagine they are an airplane and make them fly around your house. Or they could be a sailor and you could ask them to row a boat across your yard. Encourage their balance skills by placing a string on the ground and pretend that it’s a tightrope that they have to cross.
- Expose them to music and encourage dancing. Dancing is a fun way to encourage movement and creativity. Let them listen to different kinds of music and let them hold a musical instrument to encourage manipulation. Playing musical instruments is good for physical development, especially their fine motor skills.
- Encourage them to do chores with you like washing the car or giving the dog a bath or the bike a wash. Activities with lots of water and suds are fun and energizing for kids.
- Encourage their fine motor skills and their taste for art by setting up an art corner for them where they could draw, scribble and experiment with colorful crayons or paint. Just make sure that you get them non-toxic coloring materials.
Encouraging Cognitive Development in Children
Cognitive development is the other aspect of your child’s development that you should promote. Cognitive develop involves your child’s ability to learn and acquire knowledge from his surrounding environment by interacting with it. This entails them having a hunger for learning and a healthy attitude towards problem solving. Your child should have a healthy curiosity coupled with logical thinking patterns. This type of development requires you to be involved. As their first teachers, encourage your child’s development in the areas of perception, memory, attention and concentration. You can do this by incorporating simple activities that promote such skill development in their daily routine. Promote active learning. Teach them math, create crafts with them, cook simple foods and discuss the skills required for each task in a logical manner that helps them improve their thinking patterns.
Here are some ideas on how to help with your child’s cognitive development:
- Identify noises. Ask your child to observe the sounds that he hears in his surrounding and ask him to identify the sounds. Start easy with the sound of birds singing or the sound of a car horn. This activity will help him put meaning to how sounds are related to the objects that are in his environment.
- Sing-a-longs. Singing songs with your child will help promote the development of his memory and skill for word identification. Ask him to sing songs along with you. Encourage memory development by playing his favorite songs in the house or when you are in the car on a regular basis until he starts singing the songs by himself.
- Practice the alphabet with your child. Singing the “Alphabet Song” can help him identify and remember the letters. Books about the alphabet can also help in his recall as well as playing with puzzles that involve the alphabet. You can cut out the letters of the alphabet in brightly colored art papers and post them randomly all over the house. Ask your child to search for the letters and arrange them in order on a wall. This should boost his memory and identification.
- Practice counting. Ask him to count within the day, involving different objects. Take every opportunity to make him count throughout the day. Ask him to count the number of plates on the kitchen table or the number of shoes on the shoe rack. Ask him to count the number of steps from the sidewalk to your front door or the number of windows in your living room. Ask him to count his fingers or toes. Ask him to count anything and sooner or later, you just might find him counting just about everything.
- Practice shapes and colors. Identify shapes and colors for your child when you are interacting with him. Point at things and identify the shape and color. Like when you are out in the yard and you see a ball, tell him that the ball is round and red. Later on, you can ask him to describe the things that he see to you.
- Practice his decision making skills by offering him choices like asking him which shirt would he like to wear for the day, the red one or the blue one? This will also develop in him a sense of independence.
- Practice his problem solving skills by asking him questions. Ask him questions that will help him understand better his environment and how it works.
- Take him on adventures and visit interesting places like the museum or the library in order to stimulate his curiosity.
- Play with everyday items that can be found in your own home. Playing around with your household objects can be not only fun and educational but cost effective as well. You can play around with differently sized pots and ask your child to match their accompanying lids.
- Engage your child in a variety of games that can develop his creativity and problem solving skills. Play puzzles and board games with him to develop his concentration and comprehensive skills. Play hide and seek with him to boost his sense of creativity.
Language Development in Children
Language development is the other aspect of toddler development. Development in language helps your child express himself/herself coherently. It helps them understand directions, ask and answer questions, and participate in conversations while maintaining respect for others.
To develop these skills, communicate with them. Encourage your young toddler to pronounce vowel-like and consonant-vowel sound like “da-da” and “ma-ma”. Teach your baby to mirror your actions like clapping your hands. Constantly talk to him. Talk to him when you are giving him a bath or feeding him and talk about what you are doing. Use gestures and motions to help relate the words to their meaning like waving goodbye.As your child develops, use clear and simple speech to talk to them. Slowly veer away from baby talk. Ask questions that require them to explain themselves elaborately. Read with them, and help them correctly pronounce words while explaining any difficult words. Help them expand their vocabulary. Encourage them to ask questions where they do not understand. Ask them questions that will require a choice. Engage your child in a conversation, give him your full attention and maintain eye contact.
Acknowledge his attempt to communicate and praise him for doing so. Make him feel that you understand what he has communicated by responding accordingly. When you are in a conversation with your child, pause after speaking in order to give your child a chance to add to the conversation. Introduce to him spatial relationships and help him develop his understanding for categories. Teach your child how to follow directions. Likewise, ask him to give directions like instructions on how to build a block tower. Encourage your child to talk and communicate with you by playing games like pretend games. Make use of his everyday routine and ask him to describe what he is doing. Talk about his favorite shows and characters. Ask him to tell you about his favorite food. Always encourage him to tell you how he feels or what he thinks.
As your child’s first mentors, it is your role to encourage his development at a young age. Be sure to involve yourself in his developing years for you will find that your kid’s progress is not only rewarding for himself but also for you, as a parent.