Early Learning Fun

toddler pointing to a red car among many other colored toy cars
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Toddlers and preschoolers are constantly learning. Why not incorporate basic learning concepts into their everyday routines? Here is how some parents have done this:

'Hooray for Red!'

To help my 2- and 3-year-olds learn to identify colors, we play a game. We sit on the floor in a circle, and each of us holds a stack of construction paper squares: blue, red, yellow, green. The first player chooses a square, holds it up and names the color: "I have red!" She places it in the center of the circle. Then each player finds the matching color and places it in the center, too. We cheer, "Hooray for red!" and continue until all the colors have been named.

—Cassia Elder

How Many?

Here are a few ideas for helping your kids learn to count:

Chubby fingers, chubby toes: I sang the numbers forward and backward as I counted to 20 and kissed each finger or tickled each toe.

Mommy's little helper: When folding laundry, I taught my toddlers to roll their socks and toss them into the clean hamper. . . . Score! Two Points! We counted by twos together.

Share and share alike: When I have more than one child at home, I try to make playtime a little easier by dividing the play figures between the kids to make everything "equal." Then I ask: "How many people does each child have? How many animals? How many cars?"

—Nicki Bishop

Teach With Sticks

Who needs expensive, high-end learning toys? Even sticks can be educational. Try these ideas:

  • Shapes. Find sticks shaped like a Y, L, F, N or W. Gather as many letters as you can find.
  • Order. Let children drop sticks from a footbridge into water and watch them float first, second and third under the bridge.
  • Numbers. Have children gather as many sticks as they can hold. Count how many sticks they have.
  • Size. Point out a big, medium and small stick, in descending order. Have children compare three sticks.

—Nancy I. Sanders

Left and Right

Begin teaching your child right from left each time you dress him or her. For example, say, "Let's put your right arm in the sleeve. Now let's slide your left arm in the sleeve." You can also practice this during bath time: "Let's wash your right foot. Now let's wash your left foot." Daily activities can be great teaching tools.

—Christine St. Jacques

Teach Creation

Point out things in your child's artwork that God created — a rainbow, tree, bird, etc. Hang the drawing — along with similar pictures from magazines — on the refrigerator.

Say, "God made trees," or whatever your child drew, and have your child repeat the line. Go through each item. Then say, "Now I want to show you what I like best that God created." Hang a photograph of your child on the refrigerator, and give your child a hug.

—Esther M. Bailey

Learn Colors

Two-year-old Olivia loves to play with stackable cups during baths. Her mom asks for each cup by color and continues to ask for the same color until Olivia hands her the right one. Through this game, Olivia learned to choose the correct cup when prompted.

—Tammie Edington Shaw

Teach Shapes

"Can you find a circle?" Carry your child around the house and point to examples, repeating shapes and names of objects. Use a finger to trace shapes that are not obvious to your child. Repeat for squares and triangles.

—Christine St. Jacques

"Early Learning Fun," the compiled article, first appeared on FocusOnTheFamily.com in July 2016. "Hooray for Red!" first appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "How Many?" first appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Teach With Sticks" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, April 2007. "Left and Right" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, February/March 2007. "Teach Creation," "Learn Colors" and "Teach Shapes" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Early Stages, January 2007. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Early Learning Fun" compiled article © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Hooray for Red!" © 2016 by Cassia Elder. "How Many?" © 2016 by Nicki Bishop. "Teach With Sticks" © 2007 by Nancy I. Sanders. "Left and Right" © 2007 by Christine St. Jacques. "Teach Creation" © 2006 by Esther M. Bailey. "Learn Colors" © 2006 by Tammie Edington Shaw. "Teach Shapes" © 2006 by Christine St. Jacques. Used by permission.

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