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Boosting Early Learning in Toddlers through Active Play

By Andrew Loh



Play is your child's work! Active playing is the cornerstone for your child's learning process. Children, including toddlers, are born players. They simply love playing. Children can work hard while playing because they like playing games. While playing, young child can learn great many things. They will also enjoy their play, all the while, learning many skills and abilities.

Early learning can be encouraged by helping your toddler play. For your child, active play can be any spontaneous activity that also provides fun. This tendency for spontaneous play will occur when your child learns to do any play activity freely and without any hindrance. Spontaneous play among young toddlers is a basic and simple early learning activity. Some examples could be clutching a ball with tiny fingers or trying to catch a running ball. Play could even be just holding your fingers and playing with them.

In essence, active play could be very effective tools for early learning. There are several ways through which your child learns at an early age. Active play can help your children in many ways like:

Early Language Skills: Young children tend to pick up some early words, when they are in their first year itself. Experts recommend that mothers should talk to their children throughout the day, when babies and toddlers are busy playing. When you talk to your children, they will try to pick up the meaning of your words without their knowledge. They may even try to utter very simple syllables, when they reach their first year. Memorizing words, uttering them and listening to different words could become a very quiet play for your children.

Thinking Skills: Thinking skills in toddlers is very rudimentary and basic. As children grow older, their ability to think in a critical manner will also enhance, though very gradually. However, they may start to think at an early age, by processing tiny bits of information. Here is classical example of toddlers may develop rudimentary thinking abilities:

Just raise your hand in front of your child slowly and start moving it across your child's face. When you repeat this action several times, your child will start slowly turning the head towards your hand movements. However, these movements are very slow in toddlers because of the weak neck structure with its rudimentary muscular strength. You will notice that the movement of neck is slow and laborious, while speed at which the child shifts the head is slow as well. It means that child is trying to think why your hand is moving from one side to the other. It will stare at the moving hand for some time, all the while trying to make out what is happening.

Creative Skills: Creative skills are best learned, when you join toddler while learning. When you hold toddler's hands with yours, he or she will try to hold it with one or two fingers. At this juncture, child's muscular structure is yet to develop fully and it is also very weak. However, the child will still try to hold your fingers by grasping it very firmly. As your child becomes older, his or her grip will be more firm and solid. Experts believe that a child can learn creative skills, even while he or she is holding the parents' fingers. Though it is a natural skill, your child will still try to find out the most effective way to grasp the fingers.

Social Skills: Young children within the age of one year will have very rudimentary social skills. However, they will try to recognize and identify people around, either by watching their faces or by hearing their voices. Facial recognition is the most common form of social skills in your child. Young children will start recognizing their mothers first before recognizing others. One early sign of recognition is gentle smiling followed by utterance of some basic words (like happy cooing). When your child crosses one year in age, he or she would have learned several social skills.

Early Learning through Talking, Singing and Reading: Lullabies and children's songs are the most powerful tools to induce early learning in children. Singing will help your children develop auditory skills, while the simple words of a song will help in enhancing verbal skills. Singing is a very powerful tool for later learning. Talking to children is a method of inducing verbal and auditory skills. Reading stories to your young toddler will also act in a similar manner.

Recommended daily activities:

  1. Sing at least six to seven lullabies or kid tunes in a gentle voice, especially when your child is awake and active. Look at your baby's face while singing. Pause many times while you are singing; this will help your toddler analyze, why there was a break.

  2. Tell some stories along with singing. This will help your baby learn how people speak. Stories are also potent tools that develop verbal skills.

  3. Let your child play with some safe and soft toys like a color block or ball. Let the play things be non-toxic and safe. This will help children learn spatial, muscular and cognitive skills.

Featured Resource

Tender Care and Early Learning: Supporting Infants and Toddlers in Child Care Settings
By Jacalyn Post and Mary Hohmann

Caregivers in infant-toddler group settings will welcome this manual describing High/Scope's active learning approach with babies and children under preschool age. It's all there-the elements of active learning; key experiences for sensory-motor learners; the organization of space and materials; children's daily schedules and care giving routines; and adult support based on child observation, team planning, and partnerships with parents.

Learn how these all come together to promote tender care and early learning for the “under threes” in High/ScopeŽ child care centers and child care homes!

 

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