How Toddlers Learn?
Toddlers love to play, and learn by direct instruction, imitation and sensorimotor exploration.
“My folks told me that when I was just a toddler, I used to pretend I was playing a guitar on a toothpick.”~ Carl Wilson
Douglas Davies, the author of ‘Child Development,’ says that toddlers, in the sensorimotor stage of development, are naturally inquisitive. Your toddler will try to explore and touch everything she can. Nurture this inquisitiveness through your attitude and choice of activities for her. Direct sensory and movement experience; direct, hands-on and sensory experiences are the best techniques to teach her.
Joni Levine argues that direct instruction, imitation and sensorimotor exploration are your toddler’s three main ways of learning. Help your child learn basic skills through demonstration and verbal directives. She will learn by imitating you. Sensorimotor exploration involves learning through trial and error, and your child will learn the most by active participation. Traditional techniques such as reading from a book, showing photos or using flashcards are not very effective in developing an understanding of the subject (until she is six to seven years old). If you wanted to teach your toddler about parrots, for example, the best approach would be to take her to an aviary to see, hear and/or touch one.
Davies argues that exploring and discovering through play is an effective and powerful way of learning. It is widely accepted that play can build a denser web of neural connections and shape the brain — play exercises the brain cells making them expand and grow. Engage your child in play activities helping her develop skills including reading preparation, problem solving, math, social skills and vocabulary. Allow her to explore themes and ideas that are important and relevant to her.
Levine recommends puzzles, cooking, art, pretend play and block-building as play activities. Puzzles help develop problem solving, reasoning, shape recognition and spatial concepts. Cooking activities help develop counting and measuring skills, nutrition and science concepts. Art activities help develop creativity, emotional expression, symbolic representation, large motor skills and fine-motor skills. Pretend play helps develop social skills, imagination, language and vocabulary development, and emotional expression. Block-building activities help develop the foundation for advanced science comprehension such as gravity, stability, weight and balance.
Davies, D. (2010). Child Development (3rd Ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Levine, J. (2006). The Everything Toddler Activities Handbook. Massachusetts: Adams Media.
Puckett, M., Black, J., Wittmer, D. & Petersen, S. (2008). The Young Child. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Higher Education.