I am so excited to introduce one of my favorite bloggers who was so kind to grace us with her words of wisdom today. Not only is this mama someone I look up to, but I have the privilege of calling her a friend. Nicole Cole from The Polished Playhouse is here to give us some practical tips on how to start early learning or "totschool" with your babe. Nicole is not just a mama to the cutest little boy but also a early childhood professional and former preschool teacher. She is a working mom who is passionate about creating spaces with intention, focusing on play based learning at home. Today she shows us how we are our child's best teacher and how starting the learning process from home will equip them to be open to new ideas and recognize objects and concepts faster. Whether you plan on sending your child to school or staying home, anyone can benefit from these tips on starting early with learning. Thank you so much Nicole for sharing your insight with us! Be sure to check out her social links below and subscribe to her blog. Enjoy!
Babies and young toddlers are often described as “sponges.” Early brain development is critical and can be largely shaped by meaningful play interactions between parents and children. You may have also heard the name “tot school,” being used. Tot school is not “school” in the traditional sense but instead focuses on play based learning activities that support child led discovery and encourage playful learning. Are you thinking of getting started with tot school? Below are 5 of the things that have supported us in our totschooling journey.
Start Using Open-Ended Toys
Open-ended toys like balls, blocks, and play food are one of the best ways to encourage meaningful play. By giving your child toys that don’t necessarily “do” anything you encourage them to use their imagination and creativity. These toys can also be used in a lot of different ways and for a variety of activities. You can use play food to sort by color, have an imaginary picnic, practice one to one correspondence by setting the table and so much more. The same can be said about the other items. The possibilities are endless!
Pick Up A Book
I am an avid reader of children’s books. Reading to your child at an early age (really from birth) can help to expand their vocabulary, expose them to a variety of words, and set them up for later reading success. As babies grow and hear the same stories over and over they begin to explore concepts of story retelling, even if not verbally, through gestures and mimicking book actions. For toddlers, creating book based activities is also an excellent way of exploring books. Recently, we read the book The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. As a related activity, we looked at carrot seeds through a magnifying glass to make the connection to what we read. For younger babies, you could easily give them a large carrot **non choking hazard** to explore concepts of texture, color, and shape.
Less Is More
One of the things I love most about totschooling is that you don’t need a lot of “stuff.” Everything is new for babies and toddlers, so everyday items can be great ways to support learning at home. One of the ways that we do this is through the use of discovery baskets. Typically they are baskets of related items for a child to explore. An example could be a kitchen themed discovery basket that includes a number of different baby safe items like; cups, spoons, tongs, funnels etc. One of our favorite discovery baskets was a music based one that included; egg shakers, a tambourine, bells, a small hand drum and so on. Which leads me to my next tot school favorite, MUSIC!
Music is a great way for babies to explore. One of our first instruments were egg shakers that I ordered on Amazon. They are great for early exploration of sound and don’t take any skill to play. You just shake, shake, shake. There are lots of toddler instrument sets online at places like Amazon. A great basic set may include egg shakers, a tambourine, and bells. If you don’t mind the noise...our Remo drum is one of our favorite toy purchases ever! Music instruments can also lend themselves to activities based on music themed books.
Get Involved In Sensory Play
Sensory play is always a tot school favorite. Water, dried or cooked pasta, and uncooked oats are all great sensory play ideas. When selecting a sensory play material always be sure to choose something that is appropriate to your child’s age and does not pose a choking risk. Some of our favorite early sensory experiences involved water. With water you can just use a large storage tub and add in other items to encourage different play scenarios. Sponges, cups, funnels and spray bottles are all great things to use.
These items are all great ways to get started with tot school but the possibilities are endless! There is a growing early learning community online through Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram that I am so grateful to be a part of. I’d love to hear how you are supporting early learning in your home and hope to hear from you!
Talk to you soon,