Teaching young children takes time, patience, and love. We teach our toddlers to talk (emphasizing please and thank you), drink from a cup, feed themselves, and we try (OH how we try) to potty train them. They teach us that they will learn some things when they’re “good and ready”. They learn from us, we learn from them, together we learn as a family.
Follow THEIR Lead:
God gave us the awesome privilege of teaching our children. In most cases, our children follow OUR lead, but in the field of early education, we approach gently, listening to their questions (answering them as best as we can), watching for cues (longing to know more), and we follow THEIR lead.
Follow the Cues:
Young children watch, listen, learn and speak. Maybe not in words we understand, but they send us messages. Without being properly educated in communication, they’re pretty good at getting their point across.
Pushing away a spoon is a pretty effective “I’m done” cue. Rubbing their eyes and whining, let us know a nap is needed or a monstrous meltdown is imminent.
We’re learning too. There is no user manual and sometimes we miss the cues. Those of us who have overfed a baby (ahem), instantly regret not seeing the “I’m full” signal. After cleaning up, we’ve deposited a “what NOT to do” entry in our memory bank.
As for the sleeping baby who nodded off before you could place him in his crib? We learn a nap in an unlikely space is better than “waking the bear”. As parents, we’re constantly learning too!
Feed Their Curiosity:
If we learned how to interpret their cues as babies, we can learn how to interpret their cues as toddlers. They are little people with big questions, craving answers to fill their knowledge bank. We can be present to watch, listen, and respond.
During the toddler years, surround them with books. Give them access to children’s stories. Visit the library together and check out whatever books catch their eye. Feed their curiosity.
If they bring you a book, read to them. If they’ve had enough before you finish, pause and set them free to play. Feed their curiosity until they’re satisfied. They will return for more!
Go outside, let them run and climb and PLAY!. They may stumble, fall, and get hurt. Even in the “ouchie” moments, they learn cause and effect. They learn to fall, get back up, and try again. Perhaps, they’ll even learn to be a little more careful the next time.
Sometimes, it feels like a storm of questions, but they are building their knowledge bank with your answers. If they know they can come to you as toddlers, they know where to come with the bigger questions when they’re older.
I truly believe early learning happens organically and it should be fun. Reading and playing are essential for early learning. You fill in the gaps! Look for their cues, follow their lead, answer their questions, and satisfy their curiosity. Don’t forget to have fun on your family’s learning journey!