Teaching Toddlers: Tips From the Child and Family Studies Lab

BYU‘s Child and Family Studies Lab has been learning hand in hand with parents and children for over 65 years. Teaching toddlers and other young children is their expertise.

If you’re the parent of a young child, you may think that it’s too soon to teach them about certain topics. Toddlers and preschoolers can be very apt and eager pupils, though, because they are naturally very curious and tactile. So, consider these tips from our FHSS experts:

Where’er Thou Art…Take Advantage of it!

Remember: the situations in which you find yourself throughout the day are the best (and healthiest) opportunities to teach your children. Making time for these types of exploratory activities—whether it’s during an afternoon walk or a morning romp in the snow—are key to child development. Your first goal should be to help your child associate learning with positive time spent with you. Once that association is established, it will likely continue throughout their life. Some theorize that firstborn children tend to perform better in school because at a young age the attention they receive from their parents is undivided between siblings.

Toddler-aged children certainly have a desire to learn. And your number one goal should be to nurture that desire. At this stage, it is more important to  help your children develop positive dispositions toward learning than anything else. Drilling and pressuring your children to learn too much too quickly can be detrimental to their futures. For example, the CFSL blog teaches us that “The amount of drill and practice required for successful reading of the English language at an early age may undermine the children’s dispositions to be readers.” Does your home encourage learning?

Teach at Their Pace

Children need time to learn. Yet so often at home we feel in a rush to give them the best education possible. Out of genuine concern for their well being, some of us tend to set quotas for our children’s learning. But which are we more worried about? How well Billy is learning, or how Billy compares to Bobby next door?

“The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage. As long as you are determined to cover everything, you actually ensure that most kids are not going to understand.” says Howard Gardner, a world-famous developmental psychologist. And the results from the research and experience at the CFSL show that Howie is right on the money.

If we fail to teach for understanding, we ultimately fail to teach.


Learn Best Teaching Methods

BYU’s CFSL is constantly looking for ways to improve its teaching methods. And so should you. “Research is an active component in the BYU kindergarten and preschool, thus ensuring the implementation of up-to-date practices in meeting the assessed needs of each student.” Try these tips:

        • Subscribe to a parent-child teaching blogs such as MomItForward.com
        • Search for a Yahoo preschool homeschool group in your area. Look for those who have the most recent activity before asking to join.
        • Talk with experts, teachers, and even your friends and neighbors about what they are doing to improve their children’s learning environment.
        • The parent tips section of the CFSL site has lots of ideas on how to teach your children.  You can teach science to kids at any age, even to preschoolers. Steve Spangler Science is a great resource for all kinds of experiments for young children. Current BYU president Kevin J. Worthen had fun doing pudding experiments with CFSL kids recently.

Former president of the LDS church David O. McKay once said, “No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman], than to be a teacher of God’s children.” And parents have an opportunity to teach their children at virtually every moment of every day. Hopefully you’ve noticed by now that your children learn more from what you do than what you say.  Above all: love, educate, and enjoy yourselves and your children to the fullest.

What are your child’s favorite learning activities? Tell us in the “Leave a Reply” section below!

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