Teaching Your Toddler

My son is a great kid. 

I don’t mean he’s perfectly behaved or never throws tantrums. Quite the opposite actually. He’s just really great at being a kid; really loud, curious, smiley, goofy, weird, sticky, tactless, sticky, and did I mention curious?

When I was working in North Carolina as a substitute teacher and subsequently ECTA (Exceptional Child Teacher Assistant), my job was primarily a combination of behavior management and tutor. What I discovered is that if you keep a student engaged for the duration of the lesson, there’s very little need for behavioral modification or management. As the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.”

The trick is to engage every learning style either simultaneously or in rapid succession. In a class room of 30 students, it’s virtually impossible to cater to each individual student’s learning style all at the same time. With me and my toddler, it’s actually a lot easier to use this method to discern what his strongest learning style is, and tailor his lessons to that strength.

The Learning Styles and Categories

 There are 3 standard learning styles, and 2 umbrella categories. The styles imclude:

  • Visual– reading, seeing, watching
  • Auditory/verbal– hearing, repeating verbally, listening, speaking
  • Kinesthetic– doing, playing, writing, moving

And the umbrella categories:

  • Global– sees the big picture (forest)
  • Analytical– sees the details (trees)

Visual learners learn and retain information by seeing and or reading it. Auditory/verbal learners retain information by hearing and verbalizing it. Kinesthetic learners are hands on and learn by doing or writing. I am a combination visual/kinesthetic learner; my highest retention occurs when I am able to see, write about, or perform the proposed task. My husband is a fairly even combination of all the learning styles, with auditory/verbal being his strongest. I am analytical and tend to hone in on micro-details, where as my husband is global and his focus is more on the big picture scheme of things. We actually complement each other quite nicely.

The Method

The reason this See it, Say it, Write it, Play it method works is because it incorporates high intensity repetition into all styles of learning and addresses each category of learner. Its used in many professional tutoring programs and it’s essentially the same reason HIIT workouts gained such popularity a few years back; it’s intensive work for a short period of time with tiny “breaks” that basically build the muscle memory of your brain. 

See it

 We’ll use numbers as an example. I start by giving my son (2 1/2 years old) a coloring sheet (there are tons of free printables online) that has the numeral, the word, and pictures of the number to be learned. I instruct him to look at it and color each part as he so chooses. This exposes him visually to the numeral, the word for the number, and a visual image of quantity of the number. I found these particular sheets available at raisingourkids.com

Say it

Then we say the number together and we count the pictures. After we do it two or three times together, I have him repeat after me, and then finally, he says and counts on his own.

Write it

Next I put the colored sheet into a plastic sheet protector and get out the dry erase pens. This is an excellent opportunity to work on fine motor skills (grasping) as well as you teach the child to properly hold the pen.* Then I “dot out” the numeral for him to trace in a contrasting color. We do the first time together, with me guiding his hand as he holds the pen. Then he gets to erase the page (his favorite part) and I dot them out again for him to trace on his own. Sometimes he asks for Mommy to help, and depending on how complex the number is and his progress (2 is much more difficult than 1) I either oblige and guide his hand until he feels confident, or I ask him to try once more on his own.

Play it (or Do it)

For today’s lesson, I wrote a numeral on each of the 4 pigs along with corresponding dots. My son had to count the dots to find out how much the hungry pigs wanted to eat. Then he counted and placed the corresponding number of marbles (or foods) on each pig’s belly.

You can get creative and move the numbers and once they can recognize the numerals by sight, you can eliminate the dots and simply have them tell you which number it is and how many marbles belong with it.

He really enjoys this method so far and remains engaged the entire time (about 30 minutes total) because once he masters a section (see, say, write, do) or at least shows marked improvement, we move on to the next. When he shows signs of boredom or inattention, I introduce new material and/or do a cumulative review. Whatever he struggles with identifying by sight (anything slower than a couple seconds- if there’s a pause, go ahead and focus on that one) we practice repeating and counting and writing.

Within a week, he has fully (or nearly fully) grasped counting 1 to 4 and can recognize those numbers on sight, as well as verbally counting sequentially from 1 to 10.

I keep track of his progress in my “homeschooling binder” and we continue working on a specific number until he masters it. We’ve only been doing this for about 2 or 3 weeks at this point, but already I can see an increased eagerness, curiosity, and desire to learn and do that I hope to cultivate into a lifelong love of learning.

Children have an innate desire to learn and it’s up to parents to nurture, feed, and grow that desire into not only knowledge, but wisdom for the future.

*To teach proper writing implement grasp, place the pen on the table point side down. Pinch the pen about an inch from the writing tip with the thumb, pointer and middle fingers. Pick up the pen and “flip” the top end against the hand between the thumb joint and palm. And there you have it! (See pictures and steps below)

 1.) place the pen on the table point side down. 

 2.) Pinch the pen about an inch from the writing tip with the thumb, pointer and middle fingers.

 3.) Pick up the pen

4.) and “flip” the top end against the hand between the thumb joint and palm. And there you have it! 

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