It is about encouraging an enquiring mind, and equipping your little one with all the problem-solving skills needed to thrive during the school (and perhaps university) years ahead.
Babies and toddlers come equipped with investigative minds. All we need to do is support them and encourage them further. The first three years of a toddler’s life sees enormous growth, and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It is a critical time for brain growth, when the nerve pathways are forming inside the brain. By the age of two, the brain is already 80% developed!
Here are some ways you can keep this incredible momentum going – and nurture their curious little minds:
Go gardening – Sow some seeds in a pot or in a veggie patch and together observe the emerging seedling tip, and watch and discuss how it grows. Or, put a bean in a saucer under some moist cotton wool and watch it grow day by day.
Observe the wildlife - Put up a bird feeder and spend some time bird-watching, discussing the different shapes and colours of birds. Study ants, follow them and see where they go, or investigate a spider web. And all this in your back garden!
Visit science museums and aquariums – You may think your toddler is too young for a museum, but he or she may surprise you. Visit Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg or the Science Centre in Cape Town. An aquarium is also a great idea; try the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town or uShaka Marine World in Durban.
Water play – Fill a tub with water and supply your child with various objects, man-made and natural, to see what will float and what will sink. Encourage pouring and mixing, and point out when something is full or empty.
Cooking and baking – Involve your child in your meal-making activities, and let your little one help you bake. This helps them to learn about measurement, weight, and cause and effect.
Science fun – For some really fun experiments to do with your child, visit www.thescientificmom.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thescientificmom
Maths and logic
Building blocks – Studies have shown that playing with blocks is linked with higher maths marks in later years. Among other things, block play encourages problem-solving, creativity and enhances spatial skills. Encourage your child to build towers and increasingly more complex building designs.
Grouping things – Arrange a few items on a table, like seeds, flowers, buttons, beads, and show your toddler how to group things according to their shape, colour, size or where they come from. This enhances their ability to see patterns in the world around us.
Counting – To introduce numeracy, sing nursery rhymes together that involve counting – such as ‘One potato, two potato’, ‘Five little monkeys jumping on the bed’ and ‘One two buckle my shoe’.
Linda Williams (33) from Benoni makes use of a foam number mat with cut-out numbers, which provided lots of amusement for her two-year-old Logan. “At first he crawled over the numbers as I counted, then when he learnt to walk he would walk over the numbers while I counted and later he would match the cut-out numbers to the shapes on the squares and even hand me the number I asked for!” reveals Linda.
Puzzles – These are great for developing maths skills, teaching about spatial relationships, shapes and encouraging problem-solving. Start with pegged puzzles, where the child needs to fit shapes into corresponding holes, and then move on to small three or four piece jigsaw puzzles, and gradually move up to larger jigsaws.
The most important thing is to do these activities together, as children learn better when in a loving and supportive environment. It is a great time for bonding, and for discovering the world anew through your toddler’s eyes.
Author bio: Loren Shirley-Carr is a freelance journalist and mother to one toddler and two teenage foster boys. When she is not in her car ferrying children about, or in the kitchen cooking meals that no one will eat, she can be found at her desk writing. Find her at email@example.com
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