We all know that children learn more in the first few years of life than in all the years that follow. They learn about relationships and feelings (about trust, caring and empathy, about anger, fear, jealousy and resentment), about language (first learning to understand words, then to speak them), about how things work (throw a ball up and it always comes down, turn over a cup of milk and it always spills). One of the most important things they learn or should learn is to love learning.
Every child is born curious and this natural curiosity is what propels early learning. But in order for curiosity to continue its creative course, it must be cultivated. When parents, encourage a child’s search for knowledge, the child will keep searching, as an active and eager participant in the learning process.
To fertilize your toddler’s curiosity so it can blossom into a lifelong love of learning:
Accept, Encourage and Answer Questions: With so much to learn, it’s not surprising that, once they speak, toddlers ask, so many questions. And though it may be tempting to ignore or put off your toddler after the fiftieth “Wha dat?” of the day, try to resist. Do you know what’s my son’s favorite question “Why?”, he starts with one and then continues in the whole explanation. It’s quite difficult to continue explaining that, but honestly no choice. All of a young child’s questions deserve answers. When toddler don’t receive answers to their questions or receive unsatisfying ones, they may stop asking. And please make sure that, your explanations are tailored to his or her age and keep them short and simple.
Accept and Encourage Exploration: A toddler’s explorations may turn out to be parent’s mess. But it’s through the exploratory process that toddler’s make their discoveries. The world is full of fascinating things and events that your toddler has to experience in order to learn about them. So as a parent we should resist the impulse to restrain our little explorer just because of cleanliness or tidiness.
Accept and Encourage Experimentation: I know you must be thinking, experimentation is not for toddlers, but let’s not forget you don’t know if you have a budding scientist or biologist or astrophysicist in your house. Well the fact is that, inquiring toddler’s mind wants to know. What happens when I remove leaves from the plant? or when I pluck flowers? or when I throw my toy from the bed? Or from where bubbles are formed when I put hand in soap solution. Your budding scientist’s experiments may take a turn for destruction or dangerous, just stop them. But it’s important to make your kids understand, that we object to the result of experimentation and not the process. For more on experiments suitable for toddlers refer to this section “Nurturing the scientist in your toddler”.
Expose your toddler to variety of environments: You may have not realized but playgrounds, supermarket, toy shops, parks, zoos, museums and similar locations may provide learning experiences for the young. Most toddlers learn quite a lot by observing their surroundings, always help them to understand by asking questions and adding your experiences as well to enhance their knowledge.
Expose your toddlers to a variety of experiences: Swinging on a swing, playing in sand, kneading play dough, splashing water, scribbling crayons on paper, planting flowers, playing with ball, ringing the bell, pushing the lift button and so on. The possibilities are endless and everywhere. The experience alone is valuable but your inputs like “harder you push the swing higher it goes”, “when you ring the bell, music can be heard”, will make such experiences more valuable.
Discourage Excessive TV viewing: The fastest way to click off a mind is to click off a mind is to switch on the television set. It’s true that a child can learn by watching carefully selected children’s television programmes. But the fact is this learning is passive. It does not encourage children to learn on their own, as active participants in the learning process. They become complacent learners and their natural impulse to make their own discoveries is suppressed. So try to limit the tv viewing and when your toddler does watch, stay involved.
Build learning into everyday activities: With very little effort, we can teach our kids, you don’t believe it but it’s easy. Want to introduce numbers, ask your toddler “You want one chocolate or two chocolates? This is one and this is two” and you will be surprised to see he’s pointing for two . Introduce colour by telling him he’s wearing a blue shirt and you are wearing yellow top. Introduce alphabets in similar way. The point of these exercises is not to teach your toddler to count by eighteen months or read by age of two but to spark an interest in these subjects and to create an environment that fosters learning.
Make learning fun: If children feel coerced or pressured into learnings, are punished and belittled for failures or are confronted with formal learning situations prematurely, they’ll start to dread learning instead of loving this process.