Toddlers always learn something regardless of what they do, whether they are talking to adults, playing, painting, or engaged in another activity. However, new parents may sometimes worry if they notice their child is not progressing at the same rate as other children of their age.
Perhaps your toddler is approaching school age, and you are wondering if your child is ready for a busy and stimulating school environment surrounded by other toddlers. Maybe you are a teacher who wants to know what skills to teach your class and what activities can help build and develop their skills. Whatever the case may be, here is a list of some of the most important skills for toddlers with recommendations on activities that help teach or build these skills.
1. Language skills
With babies, it can be an immense challenge to determine what ails them as they are unable to talk. New parents will spend a lot of time going through a checklist of activities to see if their toddler is hungry, sleepy, has soiled their diapers, is feeling ill or anything out of the unusual.
Once they get a bit older, they learn to imitate and communicate by repeating one or two words that they know. Eventually, they will learn more words and phrases until they can construct entire sentences. In some cases, sign language helps them express and communicate what they need when they don’t know the words.
Reading with your child is a way to build your toddler’s word bank. Look for picture books that show letters, numbers, basic shapes, colors, animals, and other similar topics. Your toddler may not be able to read yet, but seeing the pictures and hearing you talk will help them associate the images on a book with what you are saying.
2. Motor skills
Motor skills are grouped into two categories. Gross motor skills involve the use of larger muscle groups. These skills help them do basic movements such as standing, walking, running, climbing, jumping, and balance, among others.
Fine motor skills, on the other hand, allow them to focus their attention on more specific and complicated tasks. Examples include drawing, opening and closing doors, or using the buttons and zippers on their clothes.
There are schools with excellent facilities that encourage toddlers to explore, play, and move around, but you don’t need to wait that long to get your toddler moving. Look for parks or playgrounds where your child can play and be with other kids. You may also want to look into local groups or businesses that offer kids’ gym classes or crafts.
3. Imagination and creativity
Toddlers and younger kids like to play pretend games where they mimic how it is to be a cook, nurse, or even a superhero, and even come up with costumes to help them play the part. In some cases, kids may also include their other toys in their games, pretending to be a teacher to a class of stuffed animals or dolls.
As much as possible, try to get involved in your toddler’s games. You can also provide toys and materials that will encourage them to imagine and get creative. Paints and clay can encourage them to make things that are on their minds.
4. Social skills
Whether your toddler is an only child or has siblings, at some point, they will need to learn social skills. Social skills are more challenging to learn as even adults can have difficulty socializing and showing proper behavior whether at home or in public.
Any behavior that exhibits good manners and etiquette falls under social skills. Sharing, waiting for one’s turn, and listening are a few examples of what toddlers need to learn. You may have seen other parents trying to teach their kids to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you;’ these fall under the same category as well.
There are no specific activities that can teach these skills to your kids. What adults can do instead is to show proper behavior at home, in school, or other public areas.
Kids learn by imitation. They will emulate the behavior that they see in the adults around them.
Some of these skills will require more time and effort to teach and learn. But the skills listed here are essential to develop capable and well-mannered adults. So give these activities a try, regardless of the environment.
Alan Williamson is the Chief Education Officer at Kings’ Education, a premium school brand in Dubai which leads a fantastic group of premium UK curriculum schools, including Child’s Play Nursery. As well as being passionate about teaching and learning, Alan has been actively involved in school leadership related to Special Educational Needs.