Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Have you run out of things you can do with your toddler? A toddler's brain is like a sponge. It's eager to feed on anything you will let it have! That can seem tiring sometimes. The great thing though is that you can add teaching into just any activity you do with your toddler. Eating time, playing time, meeting with friends and family time, or just walking down to your local shop - any of these are prefect opportunities for teaching. You just need to know how.
First things first - avoid rushing a toddler. If you want to turn everyday experiences into learning opportunities, you first need to be able to see wonder in the small things in life. That's what fuels a toddler's brain. He does not concern himself with the complicated things of life that concern most adults. Take things slowly and you'll be amazed by how much you can get done with your toddler.
Don't forget that to a toddler, most things in the world are new. The next rule to remember is therefore this: think small. See the world through his eyes.
Let's see how you can walk to your local shop and turn that into a teaching opportunity.
It's important to explain to your child what you're doing and where you are going. Children feel safer in situations that they can understand. So avoid, just grabbing your child's arm and rushing out the door.
Toddler typically do not understand more than 2-3 word utterances. Try and keep your explanations short. Toddlers use key words to help understand a sentence. Keywords are words like 'shop', 'sweets', 'shoes', 'walk' etc that he might have already heard. So make sure that your explanations use these words. Use them a few times to help him understand. 'We'll go to the shop?' 'You like going to the shop, don't you?' etc.
A walk to the shops is a great way to teach sequencing. A toddler could understand a simple first - then sequence. Teaching first-then sequences is a great way to teach your child to wait for his turn, wait for a toy or a reward. It helps to promote good behaviour, both at home and later on, at school. You could say, 'first, we go to the shop, then we come back and play', or just, 'first, shop; then play'.
When talking about what you're going to buy, try and tell your child just 1 or 2 items - 'some milk and biscuits'. Don't be surprised if your child does not remember it though. Toddler memories do not work like ours.
The walk itself is a fantastic opportunity to talk about the sights and sounds on the walk. You could talk about vehicles on the road. If it's a very young child, use sounds to represent vehicles. Talk about the people on the road. 'Look at this little boy! He's going with his mother too', or the animals and birds. 'Look at the crow! Is he looking for food?'. When you get to the shop, point out some of the things your child might find interesting and talk about. Ask him, 'Do you remember what we came to buy?' If there is a queue you have to wait at, say, 'Let's wait, it's not our turn yet'. It's good for the child to see that adults wait too.
Don't forget that handling money can be a very special experience for your child. Give him the money and ask him to give it to the shop keeper. When you finish, ask your child to look at the shopkeeper and say 'Thank you!'.
Teaching new concepts and vocabulary needs new experiences. These cannot just be taught within the four walls of your home, using pictures or the TV. It's real, live experiences that bring the world alive to your child - so make the most of it.
If you're looking to expand your toddler's English vocabulary, don't forget to try our app Brainy English app (by Brainy Bug Resources). The app makes hundreds of words and sentences accessible to even very young children.