Teaching toddlers is a wonderful task that falls to us parents. It’s not quite like teaching any other age group. Toddlers are immensely smart, but they don’t have the basic knowledge the rest of us start with, so they work hard at understanding what to us seems so simple it ought to be automatic.
The golden key that can’t be over stressed when it comes to teaching toddlers—repetition. Toddlers love repetition, and it’s good for them too. Have you ever read a simple board book to an entranced toddler, only to have them beg for it again as soon as the last word was done? And if you give to those begging eyes and read it again, you’ll be asked again…. and again… and again. On my really patient days I might get to six or seven repetitions, and that’s really all I can take in one sitting. My toddler, though, would be happy if that was just the beginning.
When you re-read a favorite novel, you discover aspects of the book you hadn’t noticed in your first read, and you also gain fresh perspective. Ideas which were only vague at first exposure begin to take shape. The same thing happens in your toddler’s mind during repetition, but on a grander scale. Their brains are working double-time creating a groundwork for a system of knowledge; a groundwork you’ve already forgotten existed.
So whenever you want to teach your toddler anything, repeat, repeat, and repeat. It’s not boring to your toddler, and, after all, this teaching thing is all about him, not you.
Of course, it’s not all repetition. There’s something else you have to remember when teaching a toddler, and that is—keep it fun.
If your toddler is having fun, she is like an open flower, readily receptive to everything you are giving her. If you lose your cool or go into classroom mode, though, she’ll be worried and uncertain, and those petals will close around her, effectively shutting out new learning.
So make all your teaching into a game. That’s the way your toddler views real learning, anyway—a wonderful exploratory game. Laugh, cheer, and have fun. Give mountain-loads of praise. You don’t have to worry about making your toddler vain; at this stage, your most extravagant praises will only give her self-confidence.
If your toddler seems particularly dense on some particular topic and you can’t seem to teach her anything, don’t stress. Your toddler is learning lots, but it might not be what you want to teach her right now. Let her go at her own pace; she knows what she needs to focus on.
Every child is different, and while someone else’s Johnny may be reciting poetry and the alphabet and doing long addition problems, your toddler may still be at a smell-the-flowers stage. It doesn’t mean that Johnny is smarter, and it doesn’t mean Johnny’s mother is a better mother. It just means that you’ve got different children, with different learning patterns. A late-bloomer isn’t slow, she’s just different.
Your toddler has only one childhood. Let her savor it.