Up until March, I was a mom just spending time with my girls, Laney (3.5) and Morgan (22 months), and coming up with crafts as well as other activities to facilitate growth and learning on the days Laney wasn’t at preschool. Enter COVID-19 and a closed preschool, I put way too pressure on myself to try to ensure she kept up with some of her school objectives to not get behind. I quickly learned that between navigating a global pandemic as well as finding a teaching method that worked for both me and Laney, my patience was maxed out and almost non-existent. Stepping back to regroup myself and refocus the vision I had for our household as we navigated a new normal, I took a different approach to our at-home learning environment.
The best part of childhood is exploring and learning new things, especially when it’s fun! So we turned learning into hands on games. We have played Candy Land, working on colors. We have played with puzzles, working on letters and counting. And lots more — some of which I’m sharing below. Taking the pressure off of myself and Laney has helped us both to enjoy learning in our own interactive hands on approach.
With these cards only consisting of 8 squares, it is less overwhelming. This visual learning approach to the alphabet requires your toddler to make a match while remembering the pattern you are to create on the board whether, one row vs another, black out, 4 corners or a middle square. The large print makes it easy to see and our whole family enjoys playing this version of BINGO together!
Colors + Counting
My mother-in-law brought this last time they came for a visit. The numbers go from 1-20, but we started with 1-5. Now that Laney has mastered those, I have added 6-8 to our 1-5 stack. I keep this stack on my desk in the kitchen so that Laney can sit there and do them as she pleases. Sometimes we do them together and other times I’ll walk into the kitchen with her sitting there counting away. What I also love about this counting puzzle is that the pieces only fit with their correct match. So it’s basically like a built-in self checker when I’m not sitting right there with her.
This is another activity where you probably already have the needed supplies in a drawer somewhere. All you need is some colored stickers and some construction paper or printer paper. Hang the colored papers on the wall at toddler level around the room of your choice. The colors used should match the colors of the stickers you are using. If you don’t have colored construction paper, just use a marker or a crayon or an actual sticker to somehow notate on the paper what color belongs there. When Laney and I play, she comes to where I’m sitting, I point to a sticker, she tells me the color, peels it off, runs to stick it on the matching paper and then runs back for the next one. This game works on colors and burns energy. Win win!
Dry Erase Learning + Flashcards
These cards were a recent purchase. Laney has outgrown the other Scholastic flashcards set that we have for first words, so I use them with Morgan now. I love these are also wipe clean cards, meaning we can trace the letters of the words with a dry erase marker making them multifunctional. Just like with the counting puzzle, we started with a stack of 8 cards, which are double sided so 16 words total. Having only done them a handful of times, Laney already has them just about mastered which means it’s time to add new cards to the mix. I highly recommend starting with an achievable goal first so that’s not overwhelming for you or your toddler. No sense trying to dive into all 50 words at one time. Take your time and keep it fun!
Hands on Learning
Melissa & Doug has done it again! I recently discovered these books and thought they were so clever! Other counting books are fine for using your finger to count objects, but these books actually have a call to action to poke the dots (that pop when pressed!) on each page to count or find an object. There are a bunch of options in this series too!
A little fresh air does everyone some good. My girls are always begging to go outside to play. So when I saw this game I knew it would be great for our outdoor time. It’s basically a game of hide and seek but for your senses. The cards ask you to find things of a specific color, size, shape or texture. Ands it’s a different game each time because you never know what you’ll find on any given day!
We have just recently entered into the world of water beads. Not only are they a fun sensory tool, they are also a fun way to sort colors or add other sensory tools. I recently ordered a pack of small plastic ocean animals that can also be sorted as well as a pack of reusable ice cubes in different colored fruits. You probably already have some things around your house to be able to throw in for your little one to sort. Kitchen tongs, spoons and plastic scissor scoops.
The workbook is GREAT! The book is huge, the price point is low, the pages are colorful and it covers a plethora of topics. The book begins with tracing simple maze-like pictures. It then shifts into colors and shapes, still utilizing the tracing aspect while eventually introducing each letter with tracing once again, as well as matching and other activities. Each page is also perforated in case you want to tear them out. I highly recommend getting the Ticonderoga ‘My 1st Pencil’ for your toddler to use. They are thicker than the average pencil, making them easier to hold and handle. Laney loves this book and will come to me to ask me to do a worksheet!
I’ve teamed up with two other mom bloggers who are also sharing their favorite learning objectives and teaching tools for their little ones ranging in age from 13 months to 3 1/2 years old. You can find those links below:
Earlier this summer, I shared other learning products that we love, recommend and/or have on our wish list. You can find it here. Do you have other favorites? Let me know in the comments!