5 Things You Can Do To Make Learning Fun For Your Toddler.

As much as I harp on about the trials and excitement of raising a toddler, there really are so many more positives and moments of joy. I sometimes wonder if I should be spending more time talking about the positives, like the fact that I am the proud mother of a two-year-old (25 months) that can say the alphabet, count to ten, recognize primary colors, read a few words in books, and carry on a conversation with full sentences. I am SO SO SO proud of this.  Granted, it took a lot of work, but seeing how that work actually, worked, has been a huge joy in and of itself!

After having multiple people comment about his abilities, including childhood development professionals, I thought I would share with you the five main things my husband and I did to help our son become this smart little man.  (I hope I am not coming off smug or too braggy. Because I promise that is not my intention. I just thought I would share what we are doing for those parents following in our footsteps to toddlerhood looking to find fun ways to help their child learn too!)

Needless to say, I am so very proud of my little smarty. What's more, he is proud too.  I love watching him get excited when he points out a number or letter on a sign or in a book. Or when he sings a nursery rhyme all the way through.  I get excited, he gets excited... It's pure joy for both of us.

Without further ado... Five Simple Ways To Help Your Child Be The Smartest In The Class!

1. Talk To Your Child.  I know this may seem like a "duh" statement.  But what I mean is talk to your child about every single thing you do, pass on the street, read in the book... Constantly keep talking and pointing out objects and explaining why you are doing something.  For example. While driving in the car, FTD non-stop asks Ollie questions... "Can you see a bus? Can you see the RED light? Can you see a tractor?..."  I'll admit, it was annoying at first--mostly because FTD would not shut up!-- but when Ollie began to point the things out before the questions, I got it. I started constantly talking to him during our car rides too. I could see why non-stop talking made sense, especially in a setting outside of our house where new things were constantly in front of us. It's those small things you wouldn't think of that add to your child's vocabulary and understanding of daily life.

2. REPEAT Everything!  I read this somewhere... not that I can remember where... When you hand something to your child, or point it out for the first time, you say what it is once, then slowly enunciate it a second time before moving on. The article I read said that when handing something to your child, say what it is, and then hold on to it firmly as your child tries to take it, repeat what it is for a second time, then release the object to your child.  I still do that to this day when introducing something new.

3. Count Everything. I read this tip somewhere too. Count the steps when going up and down stairs. Count the train cars when stopped at the railway crossing. Count each other's fingers and toes. Count the blocks, cars, dolls, bananas, and even the books on the shelf.  Count everything, every chance you get. At the zoo (we have a membership), he names the animal, then counts how many there are... "one, two, three gorillas!"

4. Get Creative.  I remember when I first tried flash cards with Ollie. He HATED them. I could not keep his attention through the first one. I quickly learned that if I wanted him to be engaged with learning it had to be fun! We now have puzzle flash cards that he loves, and bath foam tiles with numbers, letters and objects on them. I also love the puzzle apps that are made for toddlers that teach numbers, colors and letters. (That's right, I FULLY support screen time as a supplement for learning!)  I also use coloring books to talk through colors and shapes, and of course encourage book reading all day. I am constantly looking for fun ways to get him excited about learning the fundamentals he will need when he starts preschool.

5. Be Patient! From the minute I got pregnant I made it my life's mission to do everything I could to help my kid be the smartest kid EVER! While pregnant, I listened to classical music, I ate all the right foods, I took those nasty nausea inducing prenatal vitamins the entire ten months, I read out loud to my belly... I did everything I knew to do. Then once my baby was born, I started reading books to him. As much as I want to say it was this perfect mother son reading session, it was not. In fact, reading to my infant sucked.  All he wanted to do was reach out, grab the book and eat it. This went on for the first year of his life.  All he ever wanted to do was rip the book out of my hand and demolish it. I was terrified that my son was going to hate books.  Or worse, he was going to grow up to be Captain Beatty from Fahrenheit 451.  A book burning imbecile.

Let's just say the wheels on this bus have not gone 'round and round' for a very long time.
By the time my son turned one, every single book we owned had been ripped, chewed or missing a page or two. Luckily, I finally learned to stop buying new books, and read between the missing pages until this stage was finally over. It was more the act of reading than anything. I also learned to accept that there was no such thing as reading a book word for word straight through to a baby/toddler.

Today, at two-years-old, my son LOVES his books. LOVES them. We read "Easy Street" all (damn) day. He knows it by heart now.  Moral of the story, even though it made me nuts, I kept reading to a child who at first could not be less interested. I learned to be patient, while he learned to love books and learning in general. Now, he wants to read so much, I find myself dreading it at times. Still, I read...

The key for us was to constantly introduce new things in a fun and engaging way. I have no doubt if you follow these tips, your child will blow your mind with his/her brilliance too!

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April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com