Before I was a mama and a writer and a wardrobe stylist I was a preschool teacher. I have a degree in Child and Family Development and spent nearly a decade working alongside children and families in various capacities before following a different path. Even though I don’t have a career working with children anymore, I still use a lot of my training and education as a parent. One technique that has stuck with me and that I continue to use with my own daughter is the idea of teaching through everyday moments (AKA “teachable moments”). Once you become more aware of these moments on a daily basis, you’ll be able to find ways to help your little one learn and grow in a way that is fun for the both of you and that doesn’t require flash cards. This is the type of learning that truly makes a lasting impression and it’s never too early to start. Here are a few ways I sneak teachable moments into the everyday with my little one. Maybe a few of them will help to inspire you!
7 Everyday Activities That Can Become Teachable Moments For Toddlers:
1. Meal time
Despite the fact that meal time can some times be a bit on the chaotic side, it can be a perfect place to begin setting the stage for social interactions. It is at the dinner table that we can model for our children what good conversation and etiquette looks like: eye contact, taking turns to speak, saying please and thank you, using utensils and napkins, etc.
2. Diaper time
Diapering is the perfect time to teach little ones about their bodies. While you’re changing and dressing them you can point out their various body parts and teach them the names (i.e. “This is your elbow and these are your toes!”). As they get a bit older you can begin to discuss potty training concepts as you start preparing them to try to use the potty.
Playtime is filled with endless possibilities for teachable moments. It is during playtime that we can begin to teach our little ones the foundations for math, reading and a variety of other activities. While you play with puzzles, count the pieces. Talk about the names of the letters you see in books. Name the animals in stories and talk about the sounds they make. Discuss the concepts of big and small, loud and quiet, or really anything else that seems applicable to the activity you’re engaging in. It’s never too young to start being your child’s teacher. You don’t need flash cards to teach your children – real learning happens in organic environments and they happen often if we stop to take the time to look for them!
4. A walk
Talk about the things you see, hear and smell on your walk. Help your child to smell flowers, listen for birds, feel the wind on their face and give names to the things they’re observing in their natural environment.
5. The park
The park is a great place to teach our children about social interactions as well as physicality. Talk about taking turns and sharing. Talk about how it’s nice to ask other people to play. Talk about safety and being careful with their bodies. There are a ton of great learning opportunities to be had here.
6. Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite household chores, but lately I’ve been reframing it as an excursion filled with teachable moments for my toddler and it’s become so much more enjoyable for both of us. While we shop, we talk about the produce we choose and I let my daughter smell and touch the items. I often let her give her input about what type of produce she’d like to try and we talk about what we can make with it. It’s been a great way to get her to try new foods as well as learning about where her food comes from.
7. Household chores
While toddlers may still be small, there are plenty of ways to begin including them in everyday household tasks. Not only will it free you up to get things done yourself, but it will also help them begin to learn about responsibility and contributing to the family. A few chores my little one likes to help with are unloading the dishwasher (I hand her the safe utensils and plasticware to put away in the lower drawers), wiping off surfaces (I hand her a baby wipe and let her go crazy), picking up her toys, and cleaning windows. Find out what interests your little one as far as clean up is concerned and then get them involved. It’s never too early to start!
What are some of the everyday activities that you use as teachable moments with your little ones?