I will never forget the first time I asked my (now) toddler to clap, and the sheer amazement I felt when he brought his hands together and showed me that he understood my request. He was probably 7 or 8 months old at the time, and, up until then, our communication had pretty much been a one-way street. Watching him clap was a breakthrough for me that showed me he understood far more than he was able to communicate directly just yet.
Fast forward through the many months that followed and communication grew and eventually snowballed. I had no idea how much fun I would have teaching my toddler, once it became clear that he was eager to learn. As his vocabulary expanded and his curiosity grew, I watched him learn shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet and more. And while of course these are all things he would have learned eventually, they were also things that we practiced over and over and over again.
The fun thing about teaching toddlers is that learning opportunities are literally everywhere. You don’t have to sit down with books or teaching materials, you can just look around! Numbers, letters, shapes and colors are all around us and provide lots of talking points during car rides, stroller walks or long checkout lines at the grocery store.
Now that we have a lot of the basic memorization covered, I’m trying to teach Cullen some more advanced concepts like counting, sounding out letters and even a bit of math. My husband does high-level math for a living, so there is no doubt that it will be a focus of Cullen’s education, and it’s never too early to start. We try to keep it really simple — counting the banana slices on his placemat in the morning, handing him two stacks of coins and asking him how many there are total. The great thing about toddlers is that everything is a game to them, even rich learning opportunities, and they revel in the excitement of a correct answer.
I read a piece on this subject recently by Annie Murphy Paul, and she cited several different studies that show that more math talk within the house during these critical early years can lead to a much better understanding of mathematical concepts down the road. It’s such an easy think to do as we go about our day, and I’m going to make sure we continue to playfully push our kids into taking advantage of the many learning opportunities that surround us each day.