What Should I Teach my Toddler?
Perhaps the question should read “What can’t you teach a toddler?”
If your child is anything like mine, you find yourself being asked all sorts of questions on a regular basis- What kind of a dog is that? Why does the wheel make that sound? How do you fix this toy?
If you are anything like me, you might just want to shrug it off and say ‘because’ or ‘I don’t know”. Parenting is exhausting- the cooking, the cleaning, the constant guidance you have to provide. And then comes the phase of the constant questions. You’re tired and all they want is an explanation for every little thing.
The reality is it takes just as much energy to teach your toddler “That is a golden retriever” as it does to say “I don’t know”. It takes just as much energy to explain “The wheel is squeaky because two parts are rubbing together. We can make it stop by adding some oil” as it does to say “I don’t know. Please stop asking me questions”. Or “We can fix the toy by replacing the batteries. The batteries provide your toy with energy to make it go”. In that moment, we have the option to provide that child with useful facts that they can take and expand their knowledge or we can simply blow off their learning opportunity. If we choose to blow off that moment, though, we may pass that same dog again and your child will ask “What kind of a dog is that?”. Instead, the next passing of that dog could look very different. Imagine your child seeing that same dog and saying “Hey look, it’s a golden retriever!”
How to Start Teaching Toddlers at Home
It can feel like an overwhelming task to teach your toddler at home all the information they need to know to grow into a fully functioning, intelligent adult. We wonder how on earth we are going to find time in our busy schedules to do that. Yet the reality is that the task can be broken down into moments just like these. Capturing these teachable moments and building upon them throughout their lifetime will constantly expand their knowledge base and interest in topics.
While your child may not be fast tracked to Harvard for knowing dog breeds you see on your daily walks, the truth is that by providing your child with these learning opportunities that are full of basic facts, you are increasing their speed at which their brain is growing. The first six years of life can be incredibly challenging as a parent, and yet so very precious because it is during this time that the brain grows at a tremendous rate. 1 By using the brain, we are growing the brain. And growing the brain can be just as simple as imputing basic facts about topics that interest and engage your child. We can then take these small facts and continue to expand upon them.
Three Steps to Take Every Time Your Child Asks a Question
Step 1: Answer their question directly and give them at least one fact.
Let’s take our dog example a little further. Start by answering your child’s question with at least one fact. “That is a golden retriever.”
Step 2: Discuss another object within that same category.
Begin counting how many dogs you see on your walk or discussing dogs you know- the neighbor’s dog, your friend’s dog, or grandma’s dog.
Step 3: Begin evaluating the different objects within that category and asking your child questions about them.
Perhaps maybe the next dog that you pass is a mix of a couple of different dog breeds. You can talk about the similarities and differences between two dogs. Are their colors similar or different? Are their sizes different? Which one is bigger? Which one is smaller? Are their faces the same shape?
Let’s look at the squeaky wheel example next. We can allow that child to be involved in the process of putting some oil on the squeaky wheel. Did that solve the problem? Does it need more oil to completely eliminate the sound? Allow the conversation to expand from just the one squeaky wheel. Here is a list of other basic questions you can ask: What other things have wheels? What shape is a wheel? How many wheels do you see around you right now? What is the largest wheel you can find in our home? What is the smallest wheel you can find in our home?
Why Teaching Toddlers and Infants is Important
Now you may be thinking, I don’t have time for all of these questions and explorations with my toddler. That struggle is something almost every parent, if not every parent, can relate to. Consider setting a timer for 5-10 minutes, even 3 minutes if that is all you feel you have to give. This will allow your child to use their brain, expand their brain, and expand their critical thinking skills in a few short minutes.
By using these small everyday examples, we can use our child’s brain in ways that encourage it to grow and expand. We increase their curiosity in the world around them. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the things you think your child should know, let your child guide you into teaching them all the things they want to know.
Do you have 20 minutes per day to grow your child's knowledge with ease? Check out the Mastermind Early Learning Program. www.mastermindsearlylearning.com
Doman, Glenn, and Janet Doman. How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence: The Gentle Revolution. SquareOne Publishers. 2005.