I have two nagging feelings that get to me every day regarding my toddler. I know I’m not alone.
- I’m not doing enough academically to get Little Miss ready for reading, counting, and all that fun stuff.
- I shouldn’t be sitting a two year old down to do academic things. She needs to play. We are even advised by the fourth Khalifah, Ali (ra) to play with our children until the age of 7, to discipline and teach them from the age of 7 to 14 and to befriend them at the age of 14.
These two feelings seem to be at ends with each other, but not always! Here are some simple ideas to get the gears moving in your own mind as well for simple toddler activities:
1. Brushing Teeth
Whenever Little Miss has to brush her teeth, I tell her I will brush her teeth for one minute, and she brushes her teeth for one minute. I count to 60 each time, teaching counting skills, and the fact that 60 seconds equal one minute. Though Little Miss does not do a great job brushing her own teeth at this point, she has equal time (after I rinse off the toothbrush) to brush her own teeth and practice independence in this task.
Coloring is an obvious time to teach colors and shapes, both of which are encouraged to teach during the toddler years. “I’m going to color this circle red, what are you going to color the square?” or “I like purple flowers, so I’m going to color my flowers purple.” Coloring also teaches fine motor skills, and I like to put a letter on each page and point it out, just to add to our activity. I want Little Miss to see the letters that are around her every day!
3. Trimming Nails
Yes, another time to teach counting! Can you tell I lean towards math? Not only can you count the fingers or toes you are working on, but count down how many are left. You are also teaching body parts, “Your fingers are all the way down your arm, at the end of your hands!” and hygiene when you point out the dirt under their fingernails after a fun day playing in the dirt. After all, cleanliness is half of faith! Reminding our toddlers and preschoolers that Allah wants us to be clean keeps their minds thinking about Allah… it isn’t just mom and dad that consider this important!
4. Meal Time
Yes, cooking takes probably twice as long when you are trying to involve a toddler, but the joy you see in their face from helping mom with such an important task is worth it. Children helping to cook is the perfect time to teach math skills, and while fractions are barely in your education vision at toddlerhood, it is good to at least talk about it and the words will be familiar when the full concepts are introduced. You can also teach colors, the difference between liquid and solids, fine motor skills, the various utensils in the kitchen, etc. Really, the kitchen is a host of numerous education opportunities!
5. Getting Dressed
“How many socks are you going to put on today?” starts your little one counting. Matching colors and patterns are important because goodness knows you wouldn’t want to wear stripes with polka dots, though if your little one likes it, who does it hurt? Snapping buttons and zipping up zippers are all important in independence and fine motor skills.
While this list seems quite simple, I’m hoping to get the gears working in how to incorporate learning into every day tasks, and how important it is to be mindful in these tasks instead of only rushing our toddlers along. I remind myself before I remind anyone else! Workbooks and flash cards are not the only place for learning!