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Put away those flash cards and educational videos. Playing, singing, talking, and reading with your toddler — all those things you do every day — are already giving him that head start. If you force capital-L Learning on your child at a young age, he may get the idea that learning isn't fun (the last thing you want him to think!). A better idea: Let learning happen naturally. Trust that as your child builds sand castles, plays house, and stacks blocks, he is soaking up all the knowledge he'll need to be ready for school.
till, it's true that many children show a natural interest in letters and numbers. If that's the case with your son, by all means encourage him (in a low-key, low-pressure way). Here are some hands-on learning activities he might enjoy:
Books. Your shelves (and your local library's) are likely brimming with clever alphabet and counting books. Share some with your letter or number lover — and see if there are versions that play into his other passions, like trucks, dinosaurs, or animals.
Writing his name. Ego, thy name is "Toddler"! Your child's favorite letters are the ones that spell his own name. Write them in simple block letters on a piece of cardboard and post it on the door to his room. Sign art projects on his behalf. Point out his moniker on birthday cards or the label inside his jacket. Soon he'll be telling you how to spell it.
Games. Look for toys, games, and puzzles that feature letters and numbers. Play bingo and dominoes; both emphasize pre-math and pre-reading concepts. Shape identification is a pre-reading skill, too.
Counting. Count out loud as you climb stairs, put away blocks, and select produce at the market. Try to include numbers as a natural part of your conversation.
What if your child doesn't give a hoot about letters or numbers? That's perfectly natural too. Let it go and let him develop at his own pace. Remember, you're developing a lifelong learner — so you have plenty of time!
Here's to hands-on learning.