It’s been said that kids are sponges and the more I watch my daughter grow up the more I realize that statement to be true. I will say I think some of the initiatives for teaching for one to three-year-olds are a little…drastic. I don’t think my one-year-old needs to know French. However, I do think introducing fun activities that teach them useful terms and skills which will help them once they get into school is definitely important. Some easy learning subject matter: the five senses.
Reiterate words as much as possible: ears, hear, head, hair, eyes, see, eye color, blink, nose, smell, mouth, tongue, taste, hands, fingers, touch, ect.
For hearing you can do easy activities that show your child different sounds (also you may want to take an Excedrin prior). Make instruments out of old formula cans and metal bells or pots and a plastic spoon. Let them experiment with different sounds. If you have some old plastic Easter eggs fill them with different items and let your child shake away and hear the different sounds. Of course, music party dance time counts too I think. Give your child some scarves or something like this:
For sight, peek-a-boo is actually teaching them the basics of sight. You can also show them pictures of other people either in books or magazines and ask them to point out the person’s eyes. Ask them what color the eyes are. Play a version of I Spy. Say things like bring me your cup, your shoes, your blanket. Flashlight shadow puppets introduces the idea of light and dark. The cup game is great too! Just get three cups and something small that fits under them. Flip the cups over with the item under one of the cups. Then move them around and let your child try to pick with cup has the item under it.
For taste, lunchtime can always be a learning experience. Give them something salty like a cracker and explain “salty” then give them something sweet like fruit and say “sweet”. If they are a little older you can take a green apple and a red apple. Peel the skin and cut them up but remember which is which. Then give your child a piece and ask “do you think that’s the red apple or the green apple?” They will learn that the sweeter tasting is red and the more tart is green showing the same food can have different tastes.
For touch, a great tool to use are water beads. You have to watch closely on this one (and all of them) to make sure your child doesn’t use the beads as a snack. Most are nontoxic but still. You can put them in a plastic tub that has a little bit of water in it and watch the beads expand. Let your child feel the textures. Cooked noodles are also a favorite to play with. As you can probably tell touch may require the most clean up.
For all the senses a great, mess-free, way to let your child explore is using sensory bottles. Any sort of clear sealable bottle will work. Make sure your child can’t get the bottle open. My daughter can open about anything so I had to break out the duct tape. Fill the bottles with little colorful beads, seeds, or thick glitter. Throw in a few larger objects like dice or larger beads. Then watch as they study the materials getting tossed around while they search for the larger items. You can also make some with liquids like oil and water. Use color in the oil so your child can really see the separation.