Clockwise: Some of my Weekend Toddler "Play List" suggestions: Swimming; Multi-Sensory "Fun-damental" games and activities; Chore pretend plays: Bookstore trips; Marcus' example of "I Build Me" Activity
Last week, I discussed about the weekend "Play-List" for Infants that involved easy-to-follow routines with sensory play incorporated into baby's daily activities. For parents with toddlers, who did not start with these play routines, there is no need to worry at all. Your toddlers are just as open and ready to start their happy learning journeys at this stage.
For my own toddlers then, I feel very lucky to be guided well by my children's teachers on how life skills were more important at this stage. I remember having a conversation with Meagan's teacher then, worried why my 2 1/2-year-old is not yet reciting the whole alphabet. Teacher Vangie assured me then that literacy and other cognitive skills will all eventually be learned. She then emphasized that as a toddler, it is more important to learn the basics of learning like listening, following instructions, and understanding Logic like cause and effect, because they are the foundations of how information is picked up by children.
Being an early childhood educator now, I realized today that I was raising my toddlers before with a combination of Skill-Building and SEL or Socio-Emotional Learning approach. I goaled for emotional values equally, if not, even more than cognitive skills. I felt the best gift I could give my child is to empower them to become happy and emotionally strong individuals. My Emotional goals during my children's toddler years were:
- To build my child's curiosity and love for learning
- To allow my child to be good with mess and mistakes
- To do chores like cleaning and packing away to know they can help in the house
- To let my child feel love and show this love and appreciation to people around them like their siblings, grandparents, helpers, etc.
- To continue providing emotional security through family routines like Daily time blocks, nightly bedtime stories and weekend Play nights. I will discuss time blocks in later articles.
These goals became the basis on how I picked the activities, as well as the play tools/toys, that I would buy and prepare. Below are my top 5 picks on how we built love and laughter as a family during my children's toddler years:
- Swimming - Water has always provided a relaxed environment for my children, as well as helped in building their gross motor skills. We also play a lot of water games like finding 5-peso coins that I would scatter in an actual or inflatable pool.
- "Fun-damental Multi-Sensory" Activities - During the weekends, I love to "gamify" basic fundamentals. Aside from our favorite Bingo games, you could do match-it games like play the red color in the xylophone, then have assorted fruits, letters, numbers and the like and the fastest to get most red objects wins. Find electronic toys that have a gamified function like The Learning Journey Elephant colors and shapes or the Counting Cookie Jar.
- "Messy is Besty" Activities - I believe the future world of our children requires not perfection, but the agility to adapt to their fast-changing world. Psychologically, I felt that my children should be comfortable with "Mess" and iterations. Safe finger paints was a staple, where we would draw objects, letters, numbers with their fingers. But here is the fun part, my toddler would be in an inflatable pool so she would feel the paint on her thighs and legs. After that, we would pour more water in the pool with all her wooden letters then pretend to make alphabet soup. My most favorite activity is when we would combine primary paint colors in the pool to form secondary colors. Seeing the amazement in your child's eyes is priceless!
- Art & Exploration Activities - My children also loved markers at this stage. I think it made writing also easier when they entered big school. They would freely draw anything over and over again. It is good there is a Crayola Color-and-Erase Mat already available now so children are free to draw and change their strokes more easily. We also explore many places during weekends. Our favorite place is the bookstore to the point, that even when Meagan got lost in National Bookstore at age 2, she did not even cry. The photo I took above was when we found her and she just posed a smile.
- "I Build Me" Activities - This is my favorite of all because I saw how my children grow their belief in themselves. The first activity I saw this is in cleaning. I saw how they would have their child-size cleaning tools in Montessori school. It is good that there is a Melissa-and-Doug child-size broom and mop. So, part of my play corner at home includes cleaning materials. Another activity is stacking and sorting activities. Then I love how all these concepts come together. Above photo is my son drawing a rainbow, then I challenged him to build a rainbow with his favorite toy cars. I cannot explain the happiness he showed that day for accomplishing this.