Whether it’s saying the name of his best friend or learning to hop on one foot, your toddler amazes you daily with all the new feats he is accomplishing. His little brain is growing more rapidly than it will at any other time in his life, and it is important to provide activities that stimulate his mind and encourage this development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one hour each day of moderate to vigorous physical exercise for your toddler. This doesn’t mean that you need to sign your 2-year-old up for step aerobics, but it does mean that you should be giving her plenty of opportunity to be her energetic self. Turn on a CD of her favorite nursery rhymes, and dance as fast as you can. Take turns chasing each other around the backyard. Visit the park as often as weather will allow, giving her plenty of chances to climb and play. These age-appropriate activities not only contribute to a healthy lifestyle, but also help your little one to develop her gross motor skills as she masters concepts such as jumping, kicking and leaping.
In addition to developing his gross motor skills, your toddler needs plenty of activities to encourage development of his fine motor skills to help prepare him for things like writing, typing and learning a musical instrument. Puzzles help develop his abilities to grasp and manipulate objects, along with his spatial awareness, problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination and organizational abilities. Start your toddler out with smaller puzzles with larger pieces, and be sure to assist him as he puts the pieces together, helping him to deduce what pieces might go where. As his confidence and abilities grow, you can step aside and let him put together his puzzles completely on his own, allowing you a few minutes to yourself.
Dr. Lili Levinowitz, a professor of music education at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, says that children who are exposed at an early age to music and continue musical studies throughout their childhood often do better in school and score higher on aptitude tests throughout their lives. Check into what play-based musical classes might be offered in your area. You’ll want to find a class that provides lots of opportunities to sing to and with your child, time for creative movement and chances to play rhythm instruments such as tambourines or shakers in order to encourage her development of rhythm.
There are many reasons your pediatrician, mother, mother-in-law and every teacher you know are telling you to read to your toddler. Reading to your child when he’s little not only helps foster a lifelong love of books, but it also expands his vocabulary and prepares him for reading on his own one day by teaching him print awareness, phonics and left-to-right direction of text. Read a variety of books from a variety of genres. Point to the words as you read, read stories expressively, and be sure to discuss with your child what is happening in the story to maximize the benefits of reading.