Teaching toddlers at home

One of the things I find gets Ethan (and most kids) interested is being sure to cover more than one kind of learning style-not just auditory and learning “by rote”, which was was a large portion of past teaching styles. These traditional, narrow styles have gone by the wayside to make way for a more multisensory approach. It has become widely known that children with Down Syndrome and Autism learn well visually. This does not mean they can’t learn in other ways, and I personally like to tap into all the different ways I can think of to get concepts across. Since children (and people in general) learn well and remember well through emotion and engagement, making learning FUN is of utmost importance!

avoid underestimating kids

Objects to illustrate the “b” sound alongside the letter “b.”

To make learning fun, I think you need to have fun trying to teach your child something as well. Kids can tell if we are impatient and irritated by their lack of understanding or consistent results. I find myself feeling like Elmo, Big Bird, Julie Andrews, and Barney all rolled into one when I am teaching and playing. For preschool age, I think that is a good thing! If you can see the excitement reflected in your children’s faces, then you have their full attention and they will respond best to what you are teaching at that moment versus when you are visibly exasperated or just plain tired-looking.

Your child will remember things best if they get a chance to
1)TEACH it to someone else…this could be in a video you allow them to make (when they’re older), repeat it back to you, do an action while hearing the word, etc.. They will next remember what they
2)DO…hands-on activities, signing while talking and singing, playing with objects while saying the name, etc…then what they
3)SEE, (flashcards, videos, gestures, books, etc.) and last, what they
4)HEAR. So of the different learning opportunities, the least valuable or memorable one is the one that has been so widely used in traditional classroom (and undoubtedly homes since parents often take their cues from teachers.) I do not mean to say that it is not valuable at ALL and some children will be more auditory than others. (I happen to recall a lot of things by what I hear)

In this hierarchy (that I am recalling from undergrad studies with a preschool-4th grade ed program and other readings), remember that EMOTION is something that will probably transcend the learning hierarchy because memories connected to emotions are the ones that will be most remembered, and possibly, learned. For example, if my son learned how to say “banana” because he really wanted one and had an emotion of eagerness when he heard me say the word “banana”, he was more likely to recall that word. Emotions tied to the way in which we RESPOND to our children demonstrating their new skills is also very important. If my son has emotions of pride and excitement at my husband and I cheering then giving Ethan a piece of banana when he says his new word, it is more likely for him to recall that yes, the syllables “banana” do in fact mean the oblong, yellow, delicious fruit.

Using ascending tones on child's keyboard to illustrate the number 3. Also showing quantity of th numeral 3.

Using ascending tones on child’s keyboard to illustrate the number 3. Also showing quantity of th numeral 3.

There is some research connecting music to success in math. It makes sense with the order and counting that goes along with music, just in listening to it and music composition/reading sheet music has even more obvious connections..I just use music and singing because children remember it (and people in general do), and it just makes learning fun for kids.

Hands on playing and learning about a bee as well as practicing his "b" sounds.

Hands on playing and learning about a bee as well as practicing his “b” sounds.

Yes I used a made up little chant with the above bee as well..”I’ve got the bee (clapclap) I’ve got the bee (clapclap( I’ve got the bee, bee, bee, bee BUMBLEBEE (pass it off to Ethan ) “(YOU’VE got the bee, you’be got the bee….” (Etc.) So this is helping with learning what a BEE is using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (tossing the bee), and its also teaching I and ME. I do not always think of those things beforehand when making up a little ditty, but I do try to be as intentional as possible in teaching my child things. Will kids learn anyways through play? Sure, but trying to instill repetition and monitoring what is working best, especially if you are concerns about delays, is important. I would still want to be intentional in teaching typical children because perhaps you are focusing on only one thing if you aren’t being intentional, or maybe you (or someone else) is teaching something negative, or just not accurate (“Red and yellow make BLUE?!! Who knew?” ) Being intentional in teaching selflessness and other virtues as well as Scripture and spiritual matters, etc. also needs to be intentional, but I am not quite there yet on my parenting journey to be able to speak from experience (not quite anyways, we basically sing Jesus loves me, pat the Bible, and I tell Ethan to be gentle if he looks like he is not being gentle! I want to be intentional in a plan for how we as a couple want our children to be taught though.)

Showing numerals and related quantities for into to numbers

Showing numerals and related quantities for into to numbers

Ballpit+theratogs=great workout! See more on theratogs on my milestones and new therapy gear post.

Ballpit+theratogs=great workout! See more on theratogs on my milestones and new therapy gear post.

The ballpit above was bought primarily because I heard it could help with muscle resistance for kids with low muscle tone, but I have also used it to encourage Ethan to say, “more.” I try to have some toys (such as his ballpit) that he doesn’t have access to EVERYday so that it can be an extra motivator for learning opportunities, like requesting something.

My brother has teased me about releasing an album with “30 second children’s songs” because of all the directions and teachable moments that I make up a little ditty for. I do this because I see that it makes Ethan laugh and respond. He has always loved music and I try to use that to my advantage when trying to encourage him to do or learn something.

Some of what I’ve said may be quite obvious to a lot of parents, but I personally enjoy and get inspiration from hearing what other parents do to teach their children. Let me know of any great ideas you have come across!