Over the last few weeks I've gotten a few emails and messages about activities for toddlers who aren't quite preschool age- my Sadie bug for example. There's a tendency to see toddlers participating in learning play on social media and feel a quick jab of panic. "wait!? should my daughter be able to do that?" "oh no! I've ruined her, she'll never catch up now!"
Fear not parents, in the sage words of Mr. Rogers, "...for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood." As your little one toddles around building with giant blocks, climbing up on (and all over) the furniture, or scribbling away on construction paper their minds are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact when we prematurely introduce more structured type learning we risk causing more harm than help.
Learning at the pre-preschool age is all about play! Play with your child. Sing alphabet songs and counting sounds but don't expect for him or her to connect the song with meaning quite yet. Basically, at this age you're creating the earliest foundation for a life-long love of learning. Do sensory activities and watch your little giggle as rice runs through his/her hands. Go outside and stomp in puddles on a rainy day. Don't let social media expectations ruin your joy or rule over you with fear. If you see a 1 or 2 year old on social media creating AB patterns don't let your inner alarm sound. A picture doesn't convey how much meaning is actually being made. Developmental appropriateness should guide your child's learning not social pressure.
If you're not sure what reasonable expectations should be for your early toddler you can always consult your pediatrician or a trusted teacher with early childhood experience. As a quick reference here are a few guiding ideas but keep in mind every child is different especially at this stage of development. Most 2 year olds can:
- sort shapes and colors
- build towers with 4 blocks
- follow two step instructions
- identify items in picture books such as a bird, dog, cat, etc.
- do a simple puzzle
- says his/her name
- makes straight lines with pencil/crayon
Work on these skills if you feel like your little would benefit from the support but mainly make your teaching about playing. Read lots and lots of books and remember what a sweet season you are in! Happy learning and PLAYING! :)