5 Teaching Strategies For Baby & Toddler Learning

As a mom that works outside of the home, I struggle to create a balance between home and work. I have learned how to maximize every second with my children. However, learning isn’t something you have to force in your schedule. It can be fun and easy, especially if you start early.

Here are examples of what my daughter could do by the age of two (many before age 2):

  • Sing her ABCs with phonics and state multiple words for each letter
  • Count to 100
  • Count backward from 10
  • Count by 10s
  • Sing most nursery rhymes
  • Identify shapes – not just the basic one’s nut octagon, nonagon, etc.
  • Identify fruits and veggies
  • Identify numerous animals and their sounds
  • Differentiate between different types of dinosaurs
  • Identify primary and other colors
  • Say her name
  • Indicate her age
  • Recite her address
  • Read short sight words

I believe the foundation of my success as a working parent is a routine that includes sleep – for myself and my children. With a good night’s sleep, my daughter wakes up super happy and ready to learn. Sleep training is a labor of love, but it is very well worth it.

While it was not necessarily planned this way, I find it interesting that the primary teaching strategies I use in my home are not used as primary strategies, or strategies in general for most parents. Likewise, traditional home teaching tools such as flashcards are instead my backup or reinforcement strategies. Yet so far I have been very successful.

Here are the primary teaching strategies I use in my home:

1. Early Exposure Outside of her Age Range: – As a new parent, I started out holding my daughter back with my preconceived notions of what she can learn based on her age. Now I expose her to anything and everything with the belief she can and will learn it. If she doesn’t learn it the first time, she is exposed early while she is a little sponge that can easily learn. Early exposure affords me the time of seamless learning through repetition. If I don’t expose her how will she ever learn? When I made this simple change in myself, she made leaps and bounds in her development.

2. Use of Songs & Jingles: – Songs and jingles can be extremely powerful learning tools. When I enter the room, my daughter keys in on my facial expressions. I put my stress, worry or exhaustion away and give her a big smile that says I’m happy and especially happy to see you. I never want any of that to rub off on her. Why start her day in a solemn mood?

For as long as I can remember, I have been adding to this line of thinking a happy transition jingle or song. I always kick off and end her day in a happy way. Jingles have become a cue in her routine that she identifies with. In addition to this, in the precious few minutes in the morning, we have together before work I work on skills using jingles. I noticed that if I put a piece of information in a little happy singing blurb, she learns it much faster. For example, she learned her name over five-minute diaper changes in the morning using a simple “Just say your name – Amani Grace”, with low and high pitch tones. Then I added to that – “How old are you?” “Where do you live?” So simple and it works.

3. Not Limiting Toys – If you watched my playroom tour video, then you probably guessed that I do not limit the number of toys my daughter can have. I am able to accumulate a large variety of toys by choosing to buy second hand and save the rest. I personally don’t think you spoil your kids with toys. Spoiled is an attitude. Amani is totally a “Type A” personality but I noticed that she actually has no attachment to her toys and will easily share or leave a toy behind if another child picks it up. I do believe this has to do with the fact there is an abundance of other options. Some moms strive for simplicity by having a few quality toys, like wooden toys, which is certainly one way to go. But in my view, quality toys are any toys that facilitate fun, learning, and imagination. I also leverage toys to reinforce things going on in our real life. For example, the same week our care provider got two birds at her home, I took out Amani’s toy birds in their cage, so she could learn and connect with them first hand. Or if I am vacuuming in the house, I might bring out her toy vacuum so that she can participate.

4. Giving Access to the Forbidden – I allow my two-year-old to wear makeup. Let me explain. Amani was getting into my makeup quite a bit and she was very determined. I bought her own play vanity with fake makeup. She really loved that. However, didn’t deter her enthusiasm over mommy’s makeup table. I made the conscious decision to sit her at the kitchen table, the same as I would with a craft – but with with a mirror, some makeup and brushes and let her go to town. While each time the results were more dramatic, they simply washed right off. And after three or four times the mystery was gone and she stopped picking this for her craft. I’ve realized that it’s ok to let my child have the experience and get dirty and make the mess. And I realize, at two years old, that’s her job! If I don’t let her get the information herself or have the experience firsthand – how will she ever make informed decisions for herself?

5. Not Limiting Television or Ipad Screen Time: – I completely understand why this is the most controversial of my top strategies. I grew up with very little television and we have all heard about the studies that say how detrimental television is to development. However, I have found this to simply be untrue when it comes to educational programs. YouTube is a complete world of fun and learning, where songs and jingles are in abundance and can be repeated. It’s a free school for my child. I have no problem leaving the television on and letting learning programs run while we are home or running errands. After all, none of these strategies take the place of simply being present and interacting with my child. With that said, I do limit regular cartoons that are for entertainment only. I don’t see any point in them since she has just as much fun watching learning channels. One other thing to note and maybe it is just my experience – but I find it much easier to wander onto non-educational programs through YouTube Kids or the Amazon Freetime tablet versus regular YouTube. So if I am home and have total control, I will stick with the original.