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Early Learning Concepts


toddler reading

Toddlers may be able to sing the alphabet, but don't expect him to start reading for a few more years.

M. Ryan
Definition: Early learning refers to the education of very young children from toddlerhood through preschool age. This stage of learning is not about formal schooling. Rather if focuses on introducing basic skills and facts that help young children to either gain independence or better understand the world around them. Early learning concepts are best taught naturally through the context of reading together, everyday activities, songs, and playful games that stimulate your child's curiosity but does not put any pressure or stress on her.

The following topics are some of the early learning concepts that children begin to master between ages 1 and 3. Keep in mind, however, that every child develops at his own pace. Try not to compare your little one to other toddlers. Also, there's no "right" order in which children learn these concepts. Some children learn letters way before numbers and some learn to identify shapes much younger than others.

How soon your child can say the ABCs depends mostly on how often you sing along with her. Your child may master the song by age 2 if she hears it repeatedly, but she won't understand that each of those sounds (A, B, C...) are separate and individual letters. It will likely be another couple of years before your child understands that those letters are the things that make up words.

Like letters, toddlers begin to learn numbers by just repeating the sounds that you say. While your little one may be able to "count" to 10 or even 20, most children don't understand the actual concept of quantity until the preschool years and may not connect "3" with the word "three" until then as well.

The first step in learning to identify colors is for a toddler to recognize words that mean colors. Singing songs like the "Rainbow Songs" teach your little one the words red, yellow, pink, green, etc. Next, your child may have a "favorite" color -- when you ask, what color is this, the answer will always be yellow. By repeatedly pointing out different colors (mommy is wearing a blue shirt today, this banana is yellow...), you will teach your little one to find the right name for each color.

Animal Names and Sounds:
Moo, woof, meow... It is just too cute when your toddler can imitate barnyard and wild animals. Books about animals such as My First Animal Board Book by DK Publishing (compare prices) offer a great way to teach children to identify specific animals. A real-life trip to the zoo is also well worth the time and money. Remember, though, that bunnies look different from book to book and even in the wild. Your toddler may take some time recognizing that the sheep dog down the block and the picture of a bull dog in her storybook are all "dogs."

Food Names:
Not surprisingly, your child will probably try to say the names of his favorite treats first. "Cookie!" is a common early word. As with colors, your child may begin to use food names without discretion. My son used "chicken" for almost every food he ate -- from strawberries to pasta. She may also ask for "breakfast" no matter what time of day it is. Helping your toddler identify specific foods early on by pointing them out on the plate and using play food in games with her can help her learn the right words for foods, which could alleviate some of the frustration that comes when your child is a bit fussy about food and feels strongly that she wants yogurt but does not want peas.

Also Known As: Early childhood skills
Puzzles and coloring activities are two ways to introduce early learning concepts.

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