You don’t have to wait until your children are old enough to enter kindergarten to start teaching them the skills that will serve them throughout their lives — even if trying to teach something to a toddler is akin to herding cats across a river. Disguising learning activities for toddlers as a game or a fun way to pass the afternoon can be a great way to teach them a variety of skills without losing your sanity.
There are four main skills you’ll want to focus on when it comes to toddler learning activities: letters, numbers, colors and shapes. Here are 12 ideas to help you get started.
Learning Their Letters
Learning your letters is something that is reinforced in pre-k and kindergarten, but you can start teaching them early. Activities that focus on letters might include the following three ideas.
Spelling With Letter Magnets
Get a couple of sets of letter magnets, set them up on your fridge or a metal easel and let your kids go to town. Give them some books — age appropriate, of course — and encourage them to match up the letters in the books with the letters on the fridge. Just make sure you get high-quality magnets that are secured well so your toddlers can’t remove them from the letters.
Letter Scavenger Hunt
Write letters on post-it notes or clothes pins and hide them around the house or out in the yard. Don’t hide them too well or your toddler will get frustrated. Send them out to find each letter — one at a time — to help them recognize and learn them in order.
Mix water and baking soda into a thin paste and paint letters with it on your driveway. Once it dries, spray it with vinegar and watch it fizz! It’s a wonderful way to learn how to write and recognize your letters — and it washes away easily with a hose or during the next rainstorm.
There are a lot of letters to learn, at least for a toddler, so be patient and keep playing. When you make these games part of your routine, you’ll be surprised how quickly they pick up their letters.
Learning Their Numbers
Teaching your toddlers their numbers is another somewhat challenging task — unless you can make it fun. Some of the same tricks you used with the letters can also work for numbers. Other ideas that might work include the following three activities.
If your toddler loves popping balloons, why not use that as a tool to help them learn their numbers? Write the numbers zero through 10 on a bunch of balloons and toss them out in the living room. Have your toddler find each number and show it to you, then drop it on the ground and pop it! For toddlers who have better motor control, you can do the same thing with bubble wrap.
Paint by Number
Paint by number can be an excellent way to create art, but you need to know the numbers to be able to paint! Find some simple, kid-friendly paint-by-numbers — and maybe pick up a few for yourself so you can spend time painting with your children, too.
Connect the Dots
This simple activity is something you take for granted as an adult, but it can be an excellent way to teach children how to count from one to 10 and beyond — while also creating an awesome picture at the same time.
Even something as simple as counting things in your house — like how many doors you have or how many forks are in your silverware drawer — can reinforce everything they’ve learned.
Learning Their Colors
Learning colors is fun because you can make it super entertaining and messy — if there’s one thing toddlers know, it’s how to make a mess.
Break out the colors and the paper and start finger painting. While your toddler is making a mess, help them name the colors. Show them the primary colors — red, blue and yellow — as well as the colors you can make with them.
Make Squishy Bags
This one isn’t as messy, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Set up sandwich bags with two primary colors in each one. Then, let your toddler squish them together to see how they mix and what colors each combination makes.
Crayons, color pencils and other art tools come in a variety of assorted colors — why not use them? Teach your children to sort each color into a jar or bin marked with the same color.
You can even teach colors by heading to the paint section of your local hardware store and having your kids point out colors in the paint samples.
Learning Their Shapes
Learning shapes can be tricky — especially when your toddlers trip over long words like “rectangle” — but it is another skill you can easily teach them by partaking in some fun activities.
If your toddler enjoys cars, set them up some race tracks in different shapes. If you’re not super crafty, you can create them with some masking tape on the carpet or tile in the different shapes.
You have tons of items in your house that are a bunch of different shapes. The masking tape you used to make the race tracks is a circle. The napkin you put on the table with dinner is a square. Have your toddler sort these items by their shape.
Build With Q-Tips
While this might not be good for building circles, it can be a fantastic way to build shapes like squares and triangles. Break out the Q-tips and have your children make shapes with them, then glue them to some construction paper.
These activities can be beneficial as you teach your children the basic skills they will need to succeed in pre-k and beyond. As a bonus, you’ll keep them entertained during the day, too!