Helping Toddlers Learn Through Play
Toddlers are like tiny sponges - soaking up every new experience and piece of information. During the toddler years, children experience a huge shift in cognitive and physical development, including honing in those fine motor skills, building vocabulary, practicing problem-solving, fostering a newfound sense of self-esteem, and more!
Many parents are very concerned about their toddler’s learning. They invest in expensive DVD’s, computer programs, and educational flashcards and books. But research shows that the best way little ones learn is through play. And what better way to play with your toddler than to do some easy educational crafts?
1. Pasta jewelry
This is a childhood classic! It’s also simple and budget-friendly, and you might not even have to make a trip to the store! Look in your pantry for pasta with large holes, like penne or rigatoni. You can take some time to dye the pasta different colors ahead of time. Then, grab some string and help your little one string the noodles one by one.
Skills: fine motor ability, hand-eye coordination, frustration tolerance.
2. Toilet paper roll maze.
Here’s another activity that won’t force you to make an unnecessary trip to the store! Gather together some old toilet paper rolls, and tape them to the wall in a pattern, creating a sort of maze. Get a pom-pom or small bouncy ball to drop into the top of the highest toilet paper roll - and let the fun begin! Create different setups for the ball to fall down into, and put a basket or bucket at the bottom to catch it!
Skills: problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, cause and effect.
3. Ice painting.
Fill an ice cube tray with water, add some drops of food coloring to each slot, and insert a popsicle stick into each one. Once it freezes, you can begin to paint! Have your toddler use the popsicle stick as a handle to maneuver the “paint” across a piece of paper. As the ice melts, interesting patterns will emerge!
Skills: fine motor skills, color recognition, properties of water.
4. Leaf collage.
As many of us are sheltering in place, daily walks and outdoor exercise are important. Take your little one on a walk and collect items from nature: leaves, flowers, sticks, and other items you may come across. Then, grab a piece of construction paper and some craft glue, and help your child make a collage out of all her findings!
Skills: creativity, hand-eye coordination, natural science.
5. Handprint/footprint art.
Handprint or footprint art is so easy and fun to do, for any age! One easy art project you can do with your baby in the springtime is to make handprint tulips. Paint your little one’s handprint, press onto a piece of paper, and then draw a green stem and leaves. Older toddlers and preschoolers can paint the stem on their own. Remember to use child-safe, non-toxic paints!
Skills: natural science, color recognition, texture exploration, fine motor skills.
6. Rainbow streamers.
Springtime is the perfect time to teach your little one about rainbows. All you need is a multicolored construction paper, some scissors, cotton balls, and glue. First, cut a cloud shape out of white paper. Help your little one glue cotton balls onto the cloud to give it texture. Then, cut long strips of each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Help your little one attach each strip to the cloud - and then hang it somewhere to cheer you up on the next gloomy day!
Skills: color recognition, fine motor skills, texture exploration.
7. Chalk art.
If the weather permits, take your toddler outside to draw with sidewalk chalk. You can use stencils, or create your own using painter’s tape. Let your child’s imagination run free! Discuss different colors, and how it feels to draw on different surfaces (a smooth stone versus rough sidewalk). Your little one’s artwork might also bring a spark of happiness to anyone that passes your house on a neighborhood walk!
Skills: color recognition, textures, fine motor skills.
8. Window painting.
Let your baby “paint” on the window by squeezing a few globs of paint into a plastic bag, and taping it to a glass door or window. Your baby can squish and move the paint around, creating an intriguing art piece!
Skills: color recognition, fine motor skills.
9. Toilet paper roll binoculars.
Toddlers love to pretend play. You will often see toddlers recreating scenes from real life using random objects they find around the house or outside. You can create a simple pair of “binoculars” by gluing two toilet paper rolls together. You can help your little one color or paint the rolls, and attach a string so the binoculars can hang around her neck. Then, go on a nature hunt or play a game of “I Spy” using the binoculars!
Skills: pretend play, fine motor skills, creativity.
All of these activities are simple to do, and many can use items you already have around your house! Setting your little one up for a successful education doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Children learn best through talking, reading, singing, and playing! Try these art projects out with your little one to encourage her natural love of learning!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.