Tuesday, September 16, 2014

32 Ideas for teaching Toddlers : It took me 10 years to write this post.

I've had this post for months in the making, and after posting last night's post, I decided I needed to finish up the details on this one.

However, to warn you, it is a novel of read. Which means pin now { bookmark now } or whatever you normally would do, and read later when you're running low of ideas or when you're buried inside due to the cold winter. We all know that's coming.

I'll also add activities as we discover new fun ones, and I'm sure this list will only grow grow grow!

So, here we go. 

1. Make A Book

We have used construction paper {cut in half} in the past {and stapled the pages}, or you can buy cheap blank books here {Blank Softcover Book - Set of 10 - $9.99 } .

It could be on anything that you are learning. For us, we have done them on animals, the solar system, and an "about me" book.  Kids can help with making the book by cutting and gluing on the pages. Based on ages and what they are learning, you can make a book on:

  • Colors {and different objects/foods that come in those colors}
  • Numbers {with pictures of different animals, trucks, or anything else the child likes based on each number}
  • Shapes: Cut out different colors shapes, write the names, and then have the child glue those shapes on the pages. 
  • Animals : print pictures of animals and write in simple facts for kids to remember.
  • About me: Write out sentences and paste pictures for each one. Start with listing the child's name, then their age, then the continent they live, then country, then state, then city. Talk about their family and put pictures of each family member. List their favorite color, animal, snack, what they like to do, and what they want to be when they grow up. Google image a lot of the pictures necessary for this. 
  •  Math book: showing 1+1+ 2, 2+3= 5, etc. Print out pictures of different things {whatever interest the child, such as cars} and show that in the math problems. Be sure to add the numbers as well so they can see it is a real math problem as well.
2. Make a reference binder

This is a "bigger" book that will have more than a few pages. For us, we made one for the animals and an animal for every letter of the alphabet. My youngest {20 months} is learning the ABC's so this is fun for him, and my oldest    {3.5 years old} is learning basic facts. I added more facts so that when they are older they can reference this binder and learn more.

Might I add, I actually drew these pictures myself. If you are art illiterate {like I am}, feel free to go to google images and type "How to draw.... insert animal name." That is our little secret :)

3. Make a Fact Page to Hang Up

disregard the fact that I drew the capital instead of the white house.... oops.
You can use just standard cardstock , or if there is a lot to talk about, you can use the large paper. We buy ours at amazon and this is our favorite kind:  Melissa & Doug Easel Paper Pad

You can do anything your heart desires with this, especially the large paper. From colors, to shapes, to counting, numbers, months of the year, ABC's, animals, etc. Literally anything.

Examples of specific topics we have done:

Seasons: List what happens during each season {print out pictures of leaves falling off trees, a sled, flowers blooming, building sand castles, etc} and have the child glue those images on to the appropriate season pages. List also the months of each specific season, and draw the earth around the sun and how it is tilted either away or toward it during the season.

Animals: We used the $1 flashcards that we bought at Target to write random facts about the animals and hung them up and played the game...."I wonder which animal is a bird but can't fly"... The answer....A PENGUIN!

The United States: See the image above this one where I listed different facts about our country in a fun way and then of course googled how to draw certain images and went to town. This is much more fun for the kids to view, understand, and learn versus just writing out a bunch of sentences.

4. Learn greater than, less than, equals to.

The best way to learn the symbols that go along with this process, is by giving the alligator as an example. The alligator mouth being open means greater than, the other end means less than, and when it's closed it means equals to. I used blank flashcards, cut them in half and wrote the numbers. You can also draw little pictures on each one {fish, since alligators like to eat fish} based on the number to help the child see which is more and which is less.

What did I use? Basic wooden popsicle sticks---I bought like 200 for $1 at the dollar store. Had E color them green with a marker, glue on an eyeball {bought again a bagful for $1}, and then used white cardstock to cut out the teeth. Simple.

5. Make a wheel with matching clothespins 

Use cardstock or a thick white paper plate. I bought the clothespins for $1 {pack of 50} at the dollar store.


1. Colors: make a color pizza, color different colors, then color those colors on the clothespins and have the child match them up. You could also use popsicle sticks for the really young kids that couldn't grasp the concept of clipping them on.

2. Numbers: make a number pizza {divide layers}, write out the numbers, and have the child put colored circle stickers for each matching numbers. Can then use the clothespins and get foam number stickers to put on the ends for the kids to match up.

3. Seasons: see image above.

4. Continents: glue images, and write out names on the clothespins.

5. Sight words match up: write words in the different pizza slices {as I like to call it}, write matching ones on clothespins and have them match the.

6. Words that rhyme

And so much more!

6. Bottle caps for spelling and letter recognition!

I Love this activity because I can do it with both my 20 month old and 3.5 year old. While my youngest is just learning the ABC's and this helps him find the ones to match up, my oldest is learning spelling and this helps with her sight words {in a fun way}.

The instructions are as easy as this: save your milk caps {or bottle caps}, use  cardstock to write out the words circled.

7. Snack time Bingo!

We always do these during snack time, because, hey, they are going to be eating anyway, might as well make something fun {and educational} out of it. For my daughter {3.5}, we are mainly focused on words {most of the time with a theme, and sometimes just random ones that I can think of to write out}, and my son {20 months} does ones with color, numbers, ABC's, and shapes for now.

8. Sight Word Reading Stars

9. Words that Rhyme on sticks

It is as simple and basic as it looks. Popsicle sticks for the win. What I like to do though is read a book first that rhymes and then use those words for her to match up since they are fresh in her head.

10. Read a book, find words that rhyme, put them on stickers, and match!
To continue with the rhyming thing, this was a fun thing to do because it involved "stickers." Again, we read a book first and then I wrote down the words on one set and stuck them on the paper, and then wrote in a different color marker for the other set and had her match them. I bought the labels off amazon (Avery Removable Labels, Rectangular, 0.5 x 0.75 Inches, White, Pack of 525 (6737)) for only $5.

11. Have a daily board

We use this for everything, but first thing we do is write down the date, the season, and the plan for the day or anything exciting that is to come or happened recently. We also write numbers on here for her to practice {86, 99, 72, 105, etc} and saying out loud. Obviously we draw on it, we put paper on it and paint, and we can tape things to it that we want to be able to see throughout the day.

12. Paint Chips matching colors

We used basic paint chips from your local hardware store, cut and pasted. I even attempted to make them into trucks for my little one, but as you can see....I'm no artist. Also, if you buy colored cardstock, then you can use that as well {you can also color regular white cardstock obviously}.

For younger kids, just the matching of one color to the other. For the older ones who are learning sight words and recognizing the word, have them match the actual word to the color on paper.

13. Conversation on the couch with Brain Quest

You can do the same with just regular books, but my kids love for me to just keep reading {common mom, we want to know what comes next, quit your blabbering about counting and such!}. So these are just great to sit on the couch and ask questions about letters, about counting, about every day objects and so forth. There are different age groups, and we plan on getting more as the kids get bigger {actually we need to get E some more because these aren't challenging for her}.

Amazon sells them here: brain quest

14. Practice Writing by tracing

I write out sentences or just words that we are learning {animals for instance} and then have her trace them. Sometimes they are lowercase, sometimes they are not. It's practice more than anything else.

15. Practice writing with beans, jewels, tissue paper and more.

We will also pick a word that we may have struggled with reading in the morning and use that as a word of focus. I will write out the word, E will then trace it with a marker, then trace it with glue, and then glue on whatever we are using at the moment {in this picture above, it's dried black beans}.

Again {cardstock for the win here!}.

16. Color matching with pom poms, feathers, buttons, jewels, and an ice cube tray. 

Simple, I painted these {some used perm marker} and then gave the little one the big bowl to go to town with. Fun with objects and different textures. 

17. Magnets for the win

I made this big magnet board years ago {about 3}, and it has gotten a mighty good use out of it, that's for certain. We first started out using this for just learning different object and animal names {for both kids}, and then proceeded with buying all the alphabet letter magnets and numbers, and now with my oldest we practice making our sentences.

The step by step DIY instructions are here:

Magnets we have purchased: 60 basic animals/objects here { foam magnets }, and sight words here { Educational Insights Magnetic Sight Words }

18. Blocks are a great learning tool!

Blocks are just one of those kid items that just about everyone I know owns. Who is to blame them though, they are one of the greatest things invented {my husband and I love them just as much}. They are also a very great tool for learning, and aside from the basic colors, you can really have fun with them.

I used basic construction paper and write the numbers out and had counted with Graham as we set the correct number of each colored block. They would make great for also doing math and writing out the math problems and drawing spaces below those math problems for where the blocks would go. Then they could see it in two different forms.

19. Library is the best free resource out there.

We go weekly and we get 20+ books a week. We read them every single day and I try to incorporate 5 books into our "theme" for the week, or whatever we may be learning at that present time. Everything else is fair game.

20. Teach basic art through mimic painting.

Step by step, I would start out by painting one part of the boat, and then my oldest would paint that part {and if she needed help, I would help}, and then the next part, and the next. Together we painted a picture, and it was so fun to see her paint it from start to finish.

With younger kids, you can start out with things as simple as shapes--circles, straight lines, and squiggly lines. As they get older, stick figures and such.

And just so you know, my oldest is not an artist just like me and I'm totally fine with that! Proud actually of her pictures of mom and dad and such.

21.Make the solar system

Using our favorite large easel paper, I traced the round circles for her, and then had her trace over mine. Then we glued on the sun and the planets where they belong and talked about them while doing so. Super easy, fun, and be sure to hang it up as a talking tool throughout the day, week, or however long it stays up!

22. Make a song or rhyme! {you can always google songs as well if you aren't one that... raps}

This is an old school tip that we as kids were used to using to learn something {like the solar system}. I just recently made one up for doing addition by 2's and incorporated our "house rules," and it was super fun and easy and I plan on sharing on here soon.

Here's a hint: 1+1=2, Being nice is what we do... 2+2=4, Always remember to hold the door......

I can see all of you rapping this very moment.

23. The matching/memory game

You can play it as either memory, or you can just simply match. My oldest just wanted to match so that is what we did when we were learning our color sight words. We also did this for recognizing animal sight words with the actual animals, as well as numbers with the words written out. You can do this with just about anything!

Use cardstock!

24. Meal time Learning placemats

Although I already talked about these, I will just go ahead and include what I wrote on here as well.  

Meal time learning mats { Activity Placemat }. I bought three {so far, will be getting more} different kinds off amazon and they have been so great. Not only are they good for catching food, but they are a great conversation starter and opportunity for learning. The U.S. map we talk about where we want to drive today and the states that we have to pass to get there. The solar system map we talk about the different planets and what we know about each planet. And the continent map {we haven't dove into continents yet}, we just briefly talk about some of the animals that we know and where they live. They have some fun activities on the back for kids that are older and can write with the dry erase marker. I am definitely planning on investing in buying more.

25. Egg carton for endless learning via scavenger hunt

Basically use popsicle sticks, glue the learning object on the sticks {colors, animals, numbers, ABC's, whatever}, and then give the child a paper with the list of items for them to find on their hunt around the house. They find the item, and then they place it in the number slot assigned to that item.

I wrote an entire blog post on this with ideas and print outs here: http://frommrstomama.blogspot.com/2014/03/one-egg-carton-that-gives-dozens-of.html

26. Construction paper {paper towel rolls} for colors and numbers

In depth blog post on this project here: learning project with construction paper

There are cups on the bottom to catch the objects. They are supposed to drop in the number of colored items as stated on the roll {for instance 1 purple, 2 yellow, etc}. Definitely geared for once they recognize their colors and numbers....I made this just for my toddler to have fun with at the beginning and will be taking out for a later time.

27. Go fish to learn

All you need is a magnet, cut out fish, and paper clips, and a stick. We used this game with my oldest for sight words, and with my youngest for ABC's and numbers.

28. Pretend grocery store and learning money!

When we focused on money, we made up a fake grocery store, had her use her basket to decide what she wanted to buy, and then came to the checkout {me}. Each item had a piece of paper taped to it for the cost {just did either 1cent, 5cents, 10, 25, or by the $1}, and then she had to give me that change as we run up each item. As they master money more, we plan on making it a little harder like {7 cents, 28 cents, etc}.

29. Stuffing pom poms and learning "Too big, or too small" for object size.

We used pom poms as well as buttons. A basic shoe box and cut out different size holes. It's really as simple as it looks.

30. Fun project using shapes

This one requires you spend money, but it well worth every penny! I bought it here from amazon: Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

31. Puzzles are great for learning, and fun

My kids both have responded well to puzzles, so I couldn't help but include this in, since it is something I do with my youngest almost every day {and something my oldest used to do a lot as well}. My youngest really doesn't care for flash cards {whereas my oldest did}, so these are just great for reinforcing the basics. We do the big floor puzzles now with my oldest.

Some of them even say the word when placed in the right spot!

Puzzles found here: melissa and doug puzzles

32. Don't forget to craft, and to show it off!

As always, the best thing to finish off any kind of learning topic is to do a craft. Construction paper can turn into anything, and if you have other objects available {beads, and jewels, feathers, tissue paper, etc}, even better! There are great "craft" book ideas for toddlers at the library as well.

And yes....show it off!

Most of the supplies that we use at home:

Clothespins {$1 at dollar tree}
Large Easel Paper Melissa & Doug Easel Paper Pad
Popsicle Sticks { $1 at dollar tree}
Sticker Label  Avery Removable Labels, Rectangular, 0.5 x 0.75 Inches, White, Pack of 525 (6737)
Construction paper
Watch them wiggle eyes, Black(500 PIECES) - BULK
Rectangle Blank Books
Cotton balls
Jewels Adhesive Back Craft Jewels
Feathers Feather Assortment (600 pcs)


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