"teaching" suggestions - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 01-18-2014, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a 16 month old whom I'm not sure is gifted or not. I know he's too young to be tested or or labeled anyway. However,I was wondering if people can share their ideas on what you can expose your young toddler to that will be both educational and fun. At 15 months, he recognized letters, colors, and 1 to 10. I don't count number of words anymore because it's fairly large between 2 languages. He's now 16 months and I'm debating what else I can "teach". He's really into books so we do have a ton of that and quite obsessed with letters and numbers. I'm following his interests so I don't want to bore him. I understand he needs creative play and just plain plain toddler playtime which he does gets. It's just that lately he seems to want more from my so called "structured teaching". What can I do to keep him engaged and stimulated? Thanks for any suggestion!
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#2 of 10 Old 01-20-2014, 10:07 PM
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Anyone have any suggestions for this mama?
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#3 of 10 Old 01-21-2014, 11:41 AM
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I'm not a fan of structured learning for toddlers. When my kids were this age we did almost nothing with letters and numbers. That didn't stop them from figuring it out but we did more "learning" out and about. We spent a lot of time at the local museums (that had free days weekly.) We had memberships to the Zoo and the Aquarium. We went hiking and tidepooling. We read a lot of stories. Went to library events. We did art projects and messy kitchen science.


I did a little "structured learning" with my DD at 2 which I thought she really liked but it didn't take long to realize what she liked was me sitting down with her in a focused and fully-engaged manner. When I started offering that time doing more playful things she stopped being so interested in the academic work.


I avoided responding because my advice isn't really inline with ideas for structured learning. My advice is to get out and see the world, answer questions, follow interests and don't worry about what you should be teaching.

Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 14.
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#4 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 12:47 AM
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I'd say, at his age, just keep on digging into the books. If he is very verbal for his age he may enjoy books for age three and up, the kind with flaps and short explanations of science and nature etc., and short picture books with real stories, not just labels. I assume you are doing all that, and if not, you could head over to the nearest children's library and let him guide you towards what's right for him.

The fun thing about kids this age, and for some reason I am really only now appreciating it with my youngest, is that housework appears to be endlessly fascinating for them. Playing with laundry and laundry tags and learning names for clothes, fabrics and colours, helping you put away the groceries and learning their names and what you do with them, helping you wash the carrots and soak the lentils...they love it, its sensory and educational and you might actually get stuff done!

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#5 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 12:54 AM
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Wanted to add, whatsnextmom only having hinted at this, that the culture of this place rather frowns on structured learning for very young toddlers, gifted or not, so you will not get much input the way you framed your question, most folks being too polite to give you answers you may not be interested in or which may sound like they are criticizing your choices. However, if you do want to know what people here feel was right for their kids and why, let us know!

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#6 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 12:59 PM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate the honesty and suggestions.  I am not a fan of rigid academic learning for toddlers either.  I do read a lot to him and we visit the library for storytime.  Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be how other mothers are exposing their young toddlers with fun and creative ways.  My son may be a geek but he's going through a period of fussiness where he won't eat unless you start showing him the alphabet book, colors book, or a Chinese language picture book that I show him from time to time.  Perhaps he's just nerdy. I do prefer doing more fun stuff that's less structured though so hence, my question on this board to ask. 

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#7 of 10 Old 01-22-2014, 07:21 PM
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You might find a lot of good stuff if you explore Montessori.  There are lots of ideas on pinterest.  My children have all been voracious learners, and frustrated (and won't sleep well!) if they aren't mentally tired.  I have set up "learning stations" all over the house.  The kids don't know that's what they are, and don't call them that.  To them, it's just our house.  I keep things neat and tidy, and sort of sparse so that it is easy for them to concentrate. 


Under the coffee table are two bins.  One contains Lincoln logs, and one a wooden train set.  Sometimes I toss in a book about trains, or a picture to inspire a track or log building.  Sometimes I sit and build with them.  Sometimes, after they are in bed, I do something like organize the Lincoln logs by pieces into categories, and leave some undone.  In the morning, I casually sit down and do a few more, then walk away.  Usually, with a set up like that, one of the kids will wander over and continue sorting them.  I don't call attention to it, I just do it.


On the coffee table in a low flat basket is a set of snap circuits.  Today I built a circuit for my young three year old, and showed her what happened when I took one piece off.  Then I took apart and left it with her while I "went to make lunch".  She made several more circuits on her own.


By the fireplace are two baskets.  One has library books, and another has a wooden erector set.  Sometimes I leave a finished project in there, sometimes I tell someone to go make something.  Sometimes I just let it be.


On the bathroom wall, just in front of the toilet, kid high, hangs a Japanese hiragana chart.  Sometimes I get out the go along flashcards and put them in a basket on a blanket on the floor by the piano.  I put a few premade cards for matching the hiragana.  Sometimes I leave a few words written for the kids to figure out.


For a while, we had a basket with a compass, a pair of binoculars, and a few "find your way" books. 


Frequently, I leave out a knot book with a string. 


In the corner by the crib is a box of blocks, a nesting stacking tower, and some ring stackers.  Also a shape sorter.  On the other side is a basket of gears.


Inside the closet under the stairs are the big kids' school things, plus a white board, and a chalk board, also hung kid high.  We also have a basket of chalk out by the privacy fence for the kids to write on whenever.  Sometimes I draw a little picture, step by step that can be copied, sometimes a few letters.  Sometimes, nothing.


Behind the couch is a cozy blanket, and a pile of books.  Titles are rotated for interest.


The piano is accessible to all children all day.  (When I make my 8 year old stop playing, that is. ;) )  Starting around 3, I put the first piano book on the music rack, and showed her how to play the first song.  The whole interaction was about 10 minutes total.  Then I just left it there for about a month to see if she was interested.  Then I would remove it, and repeat the exact same thing about 6 months later, as if we never talked about it.  At 6, she took the bait, and taught herself the first book in about two months, and was well into the second when we moved and had to sell our piano.  We have another now, and she still loves it.


Also in that closet are wooden beads and string, and wooden abc stamps.  Today my three year old enjoyed stamping her name over and over again, and copying patterns that I made first.  I am forever having to make the kids clean up all their cut paper scraps, marker piles, spilled crayons, and empty tape containers from this same closet.  It was supposed to be for school, but it's turned into kid craft central.


We also have a kitchen set, and a small table and chairs in the living room.  Sometimes I set that up as a restaurant, or put baby dolls or teddy bears in the chairs.  Sometimes just leaving the kitchen dress up things laid out invitingly on the couch is enough to get them going.  Sometimes I fill up containers with beans or noodles and set them near their kitchen.  Today, there is a basket with linking blocks and an egg carton on the table.  Dd (age 20m) had a great time filling the carton over and over with "one!" block.  I was impressed when the carton was nearly full, and she had two blocks in her had that she chose to join them to make one piece before dropping it into the remaining hole.  Observing her awareness opens other activities that might interest her.  Tomorrow, I will put all the blocks into two-block stacks, half fill the egg carton, and see what she does when she wakes up.  We have been doing a little matching, but now I see that she is probably ready for a game.


When my first dd was very small (ages 1 to 3), I had two low benches with "cubbies".  The benches were 6-8' long, and each cubby about a 1' across.  In these, I put baskets, each with a different theme, which I rotated when I sensed she was bored.  One might have a magnifying glass and a few bug specimens, a bug book, realistic bug picture flashcards, and tweezers and a jar.  Another had an old parmesan cheese container filled with about 30 dice, a box of dominoes, and something else similar.  Another simply held wooden blocks.  Another puzzles.  Etc.


I leave "gifts" beside their pillows, or put them in places I know they will find.  One day, they might discover recorders.  Another an anatomy kit. 


We might put a bean in a wet paper towel in a baggie and tape it to window just to see what will happen.  I might give them a plot of dirt, a shovel and some seeds.


I would talk all the time as we drove around town, pointing things out to her, and explaining how they worked.    It was hard to explain how the power plant works to a 2 year old, but we finally got it.  She loved to take apart flashlights, or to be turned loose with a screw driver.


This was long, a bit random, and some things were a little less "academic" than others, but I was trying to show making your environment stimulating, both in play and academics, can be easily done.  Making these sorts of opportunities a way of life has been a challenge at times (I run out of creativity!), but also has allowed our children to explore freely, at their own pace, and to choose what interests them.  Academics then become play, and our house a children's museum.  Sometimes they build circuits or do Japanese flashcards, other days they play IHOP.  It's all free flowing to them, but there is enough available to 1.) stimulate their minds, 2.) relax them if they choose, 3.) fulfill all basic pre-k needs so I never really have to "school" anyone much.

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#8 of 10 Old 01-23-2014, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow.  This is great! Thank you so much! You have give me lots of great ideas to think about.  I'm trying to moderate and balance both academic and more exploratory style learning.  It's just that he's entering into a "I LOVE FLASHCARDS" phase so I'm going along with it. 

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#9 of 10 Old 01-31-2014, 08:33 PM
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a wonderful resource is the book 'the out of synch child has fun'.


what your child needs at that age is a variety of sensory experiences. 


go for simple stuff that he can use in his own way.


for instance give him small canned goods. dd LOVED playing with canned food rather than blocks. 


is he still putting things in his mouth?


dont worry about academics now. give him lots of stuff to play with. dd discovered math playing with my - what are they called - party lite candles. i got a real sturdy box and put those light air balls, blocks, scarves in there for her to throw out so she could study how they roll. 


at that age we walked to the park. it was a mile long and it took us an hour because dd would stop and study the cracks in the sidewalk. 

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#10 of 10 Old 02-02-2014, 06:53 AM
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I didn't read through all of the replies so apologies if this is repetitive: 


1. There are some nice art books written for children. I'm not sure if the discourse would be interesting for a young toddler, but it may be a way to show him great art works. 


2. Puzzles, blocks, duplos, etc. for building


3. Books, books and more books- fiction, and some non-fiction (especially books that "label" objects "chair," "table," etc.)


4. Simple outings where you are explaining what is happening- grocery stores are great learning environments and good field testing to improve behavior in public


5. Talking with your child- not a monologue, but gentle explanations about what is happening, and encouraging responses. I tried to use a lot of synonyms and adjectives to improve language skills


6. An abacus is an excellent way to teach basic math skills in a "hands on" way. We used it for counting and eventually for counting out sets, adding, subtracting, etc. As a toddler, my son preferred "hands on" activities. 


I found that as a toddler and preschooler my DS7 liked to know how things "work." We explained simple things that kids are curious about like "where the voice comes from at the drive through window," or "we have to put fuel in the car to make it go." 


When my son was between 3-4 years:


1. We bought him some books with mazes, provided a lot of arts and crafts, and we taught him how to make paper airplanes. 


2. We taught him how to add and subtract on his fingers and the phonetic sounds of all the letters. We worked with him a few minutes a day (if we could keep his interest) on recognizing the numbers up to 100. 


3. He learned short sight works like "big," or "cat."


Between 4-5: 


1. We showed him equations without materials (i.e. +, -, x, /) 


2. We worked on mental math (no counting on fingers)


3. He learned to count money


4. He learned to read (it was mostly organic because we asked him to pick out words and eventually sentences while we were enjoying a book together). 


Keep in mind that most of these "lessons" were a normal part of the day. Occasionally, we would sit down with a sheet of paper- but a lot of this stuff was natural. For instance, he would count real money as he put it in a piggy bank. We did mental math in the car (much of our quality learning has taken place in a car). Reading was for enjoyment primarily, not a teaching exercise (he did a bit of reading enrichment in preschool). We used a white board (the kid loves his white boards) for showing equations (this was more deliberate, but he loves math). 


Now, at seven (first grade), I still do a bit of enrichment at home. We work on some math, and he reads a paragraph aloud to me every night. I don't "quiz" him on his pleasure reading because it kills the enjoyment.  


I know that in the US parents have a negative reaction to deliberate "teaching" at young ages. There are good developmental readiness reasons, and maybe a bit of the "talent" (i.e. talent is "born" not "made") mentality that is a double-edged sword. What I found is that all kids are different. My son benefitted from a bit of teaching- he would become frustrated not "knowing" things. So, we suffered through it a bit at a young age because we felt he would be happier with the result. 

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