Human beings have a natural inquisitiveness and inclination to seek out and learn new things. They also have a natural built-in ability to learn things like eating, walking, talking, and more. Nonetheless, teaching is not at all a superfluous endeavor, though it does require us to learn a bit about how we learn so we can be better “learning guides” to others.
In the case of toddlers, and up to pre-school aged kids, teaching can be a special challenge, though also especially rewarding and often humorous and fun.
Whether as parents at home or as pre-school teachers in the classroom, we can all learn to be better instructors to toddlers. Here are three ways we can accomplish that:
1. Train as a Toddler Language Instructor
From 6 months on up, infants and toddlers will naturally pick up their first language by simply hearing it spoken by adults around them. But there are still some principles you can use to help them along a little faster:
- Pronounce words properly. You may need to learn “toddler talk” to understand what your little one is saying, but avoid the temptation of speaking it. Only by hearing you pronounce words correctly can young language learners gradually adjust to linguistic norms.
- Don’t interrupt their learning. Toddlers like to repeat new words and phrases three or four times in a row. That’s part of how they “teach themselves,” so don’t hurry them on to the next thing and interrupt their memory drills.
- Use only a few words at a time. At first, your little one will only speak single words, then two or three word phrases or sentences. It’s easier to learn by isolating and focusing on a little bit at a time, so don’t “overwhelm them with words.”
2. Balance Freedom & Safety to Teach Physical Skills
Your 1 to 4 year old may tend to make you stress out by fearing he or she will get hurt while exploring a brand new world. But you can’t afford to be overprotective and risk slowing down their acquisition or motor and physical skills.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go to the extreme of neglect and not pay proper attention to your toddler. As every parent knows, if you leave your child unattended for only a few minutes, he/she could easily fall and get hurt or swallow something dangerous.
It takes time and experience to learn, but you have to know how far to let them go before stepping in and preventing a potential calamity. And you have to pay close attention and be aware of what’s going on so you can make these kinds of parental decisions.
3. Opt for a Preschool Program That Promotes Inquisitiveness
While many traditional teaching methods rely almost exclusively on feeding students a steady stream of information and asking them to answer questions posed to them, inquiry based education takes the opposite approach.
Especially with toddlers and preschool pupils, the better approach is to encourage them to ask questions and be more active in the learning process. By letting them gather and interpret information on their own, and challenging them to find solutions, their natural curiosity is harnessed and channeled in a constructive way.
Even in college, the real goal of education is to teach students how to learn, how to teach themselves. And in preschool, that same basic principle applies. It’s really the essence of “teaching a man to fish rather than just giving him a fish.” The more you teach your child to take initiative and find ways to learn from everything he/she encounters, the more successful your child is likely to be in school and in life.