OVERALLS: ZARA | LUNA'S OVERALLS DRESS: ZARA
When Luna turned fifteen months, I found out I was pregnant with baby two. I was sick as a dog, and some days, just to make it through, Disney movies were my go-to. And to be honest, the mom guilt really crept in.
I felt like I was failing Luna during a vital time in her development. It's truly amazing how quickly our babies grow and learn every single day, and it's important to me that I do everything I can to help foster that growth.
For Luna (and most kids), it's hard to get her attention with traditional direct instruction approaches. But I had heard and read that play based learning was far more effective and even had a positive influence on imagination and language development (something really important to me that we work on daily). So I did some digging, and I thought I might share with you what I learned and what we try to work on daily.
Play Based Learning
Teach Action Words by Utilizing 'Cause and Effect Toys'
For every action there is a reaction. Babies are learning this every day, and it helps give them the feeling of control over their environment. When she pushes a button, a noise happens. What I try to do with Luna is utilize 'cause and effect toys' to foster her expressive language and understanding.
For instance, teaching Luna the word 'go' by asking her to say it. Once she says it, she (or I, depending on whose turn it is), pushes the button that pops the balls out. The cause (of her speaking), has the effect of shooting out the colorful balls. This allows her to pair a word with an action.
You can do this on the playground too. Ask your toddler to say 'swing' if they want you to push them on the swing. And then ask them again. The repetitive labeling really helps them to put the word to the action.
If you want to add some more cause and effect toys to your toy bin, look for ones that have lots of colorful pieces. You can use them to teach cause and effect, take turns, and model colors or shapes etc. Here are some of my favorite cause-and-effect toys: VTech Stack & Balance Teeter Totter, VTech Crazy Legs Bug, VTech Spin & Tweet Musical Birdhouse, VTech Mix and Match-a-Saurus.
You can find tons more by just looking through the new toys section at Walmart (my personal favorite place to shop for toys for Luna because of their huge and updated selections).
Taking Turns to Teach Sharing and The Difference Between 'You' vs. 'Me'
I've heard that toddlers really can't understand the concept of 'sharing' until they're a little older. The word 'sharing' somewhat becomes a bad word to a toddler because it means handing something over that they want. (And isn't that frustrating for all of us)?
Instead, I read that you should ask them to take turns. Not only does this teach the concept of sharing, but it also teaches the difference between 'you' and 'me.' For example, 'Mommy's turn. Ok, now Luna's turn.' And I give her lots of praise when she hands the ball over. By modeling that you enjoy sharing, your toddler will hopefully see that it isn't such a scary, permanent concept. And bonus: Luna can now express when she wants something by saying 'mine' or 'luna' or 'me.'
Use Play Based Learning to Label Items
Luna is far more interested in paying attention to her toys than she is to me haha. Which is why play based learning can be so successful. I use that to my advantage to label items I want us to work on. For example, I really wanted to focus on modeling animal sounds, so I bought little farm animals to help.
Learning animal sounds is a precursor to reading because it allows them to associate a picture or symbol with a sound, so it's a pretty big developmental milestone in my book. I used one animal at a time to model their sounds consistently and she picked them up pretty quickly, one by one. Now, we drive by a horse pasture and she will automatically 'nay' without being asked. I can ask her what sound a lion or a cat or a cow makes, and she will make it on command. Toys can be pretty powerful tools to teach our toddlers.
Use Play Based Learning to Label Emotions
On that same note, I want Luna to be able to identify her emotions. Toddlers have a limited vocabulary so it's pretty easy for them to get frustrated when they are unable to express (or we are unable to understand) what they want. So, while playing with her favorite toys, I use the opportunity to label (and validate) her emotions.
For example, 'I understand that you're frustrated that I put your baby in her stroller. I get frustrated too when when someone takes something I want. Would you like to hold her instead?' Or on the opposite spectrum, 'I am so glad you're feeling happy. It's so fun to play with your dolls.' I use these identifiers as often as I can. Now, Luna telling me when she's 'happy' and I LOVE it. It's so cool watching her learn and be able to identify and express her feelings.
Help Your Toddler Tune Their Fine Motor Skills
Kids learn fine motor skills best by participating in play and daily life activities. Some great examples of toys for this include putting together a board puzzle, sorting shapes, rolling out playdough or building with blocks can really help tune their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Teach Colors with Toys
One of the best ways to get your toddler to learn colors is to make learning fun. I like this fun Farmers Market Color Sorting set because it comes with 30 pieces total with five baskets that have different colors on them. You can teach your toddler to sort or model the color for them. I like to put the piece of fruit by my mouth as I model the word to draw Luna's attention so she can really see how I pronounce them. She has struggled with 'orange' for whatever reason so I have found that really exaggerating my mouth and pronunciation has helped. As she gets more advanced, we will work on the sorting aspect more frequently.
It's undeniable that play is crucial to your child's development.
I hope you have found this article helpful by sharing what we have done with Luna to help foster her growth and language development. if you guys have any recommendations I would absolutely LOVE to hear them in the comments below. It's so cool hearing what has worked (or what hasn't) for other moms.