Learning to recognise colours takes time and patience but it comes to all toddlers with practice. To help toddlers to learn their colours, undertake long term colour projects. Create a 'colour wall' in your home or setting, create a label for each colour, written in its own colour. Write balloon letters, coloured in for best effect. Attach the labels to the wall leaving space around them and you are now set to start your project.
Every few days, select a magazine or catalogue and look at the pictures with your little one. Identify an object in the picture that is primarily a single colour, point to it and talk about what colour it is. For children who aren't yet talking, tell them what colour it is, for young toddlers who are babbling, ask them what colour and see if they can guess correctly.
When you have talked about the picture and identified the colour together, cut the picture out and lift up your toddler so that they can stick the picture to the wall around the correct colour label.
Over a few weeks, your wall will grow into a great big colour chart with large swathes of each colour around each label. It will look pretty and serve as an aid for remembering colours and the repetitive nature of the project will help them to identify and learn their colours.
Colouring has to be the number one activity, entertaining children around the world on a daily basis, but what does it teach? As with so many baby and toddler activities, colouring assists learning across a broad spectrum of skills:-
- Fine motor skills: this is all about coordination, young children will learn to hold crayons and to control their hand movements. Such control is essential before your children can start writing so colouring is a precursor to being able to write.
- Knowledge and understanding of the world: exposure to different pictures to colour in will help to teach children about the world around them; talk about the scenes that they are colouring, and make sure that they know what each object in the scene is, this will broaden vocabulary as well as nurture a wider contextual understanding.
- Colours: colouring helps your little ones learn their colours. Children will also begin to learn the effect of mixing different colours.
- Concentration: colouring will help your children to concentrate on a project and to see it through to its conclusion.
There are so many lessons that colouring a simple picture can teach. Make sure you always have a small pack of crayons in your handbag, and a sheet or two to colour in (you can quickly find pictures to colour on the Internet, we have lots at ToucanLearn!). The next time you find yourself having to wait somewhere with your little ones, or stuck in traffic, you'll be grateful that you can just whip out some colouring, and your little ones will be improving themselves along the way.
Get some fun into your every day routine with these sparky ideas to perk up the most mundane activities...
Bathtime fun: If bathtime ever begins to get tiresome, why not play hair dressers and use the suds from the baby shampoo to make fun hairstyles with your baby's hair! Show what they look like with a plastic mirror and see their reaction to looking like an alien!
Changing roles: why not encourage your little one to look after you for a while. Get them to cuddle you, wrap you in a blanket on a comfy chair, stroke your hand or forehead etc. Or, see if they will tuck you into bed for a pretend nap and sing you a bedtime song. They will love it!
Picture book: Look through old pictures and choose some to make a big family book full of family photos. You could add a collage and stick the pictures onto card and mount them with glue. Frame the collage and see how much fun you have naming all the relations and seeing how they are related to each other! You could set it out like a family tree!
Dinner time: Pretend you are in a restaurant and set out the table with a table cloth or a bunch of flowers. Pretend to take orders and bring in the food like a waitress. Don't forget the bill at the end!
Now that the warm weather is here - hopefully to stay - it's a great chance to get outside and capture the pretty things that appear in spring. If you have a digital camera, a phone with a camera on it or a kiddie digital camera why not go out on a photo shoot.
- Discuss where you want to go... the local park, a pond or river nearby or the garden.
- Plan together what you should take: snacks, drink, sun hat, blanket for resting on or note book to draw things.
- Talk about when to go (morning time when the birds are singing, lunchtime when the sun is brightest and highest, or evening when things are covered in the glow of the setting sun.
Allow your little one access to the camera - with supervision. See what they are attracted to and help them take photos. You could focus on different things:
- Colours: Take photos of different coloured things line green grass, brown bark, pink blossom, white daisies. See how many you collect.
- Texture: take photos of different textures like rough tree, smooth leaf, bumpy path, silky flowers.
- Size: take pictures of small, medium and large and super-large things such as tiny ants, medium shrubby bushes, large fallen trunks and massive towering trees.
- Mini beasts: find and photograph as many mini beasts and animals you can find: insects, squirrels, butterflies, spiders and webs, birds etc.
Have a happy, snappy time!
So, summer is slipping away and the autumnal breezes are gathering but here are a few activities to do with your little one to cling on the those summery days. Enjoy!
Use a white paper plate and decorate it with yellow paint or paper to make a sun! Add some sun rays with cardboard strips and colour them yellow too! A sprinkling of glitter on top and you're done! Hang the sun from a window and watch it twinkle in the sunlight.
Take a white sheet of paper and make a beach picture. Use blue tissue paper for the sea with a ball of silver foil as the sun. Get some sand and glue that across the bottom of the page like a sandy beach. Then cut out some squares for buckets with some string for handles. Cut out more cardboard from a cereal packet and make sand castle shapes too.
It may be getting too cold for a picnic lunch, but how about a rug on some grass after nursery for a cup of milk and a cookie in the warm afternoon sunshine? Take a couple of good childrens' books and enjoy some quiet time together.
Cut out some butterfly shapes from card or old cereal packets. Get the brightest, most colourful paints and decorate them all over! Add some pipe cleaner antennae and some thread to hang them with. Gather 6 of the butterflies and hang them at the window at different lengths and as breeze comes is see them flutter!
Gather some pots, packets and card tubes ready for recycling and make a model of a sandcastle. Glue the bits together then cover with glue and stick on sand to make it look like a real sandcastle. It's a bit messy and probably best done outside!
Ice Cream Cones
Take a few pieces of card and roll into a cone shape or use a card tube and squeeze the end. Then take a load of coloured tissue paper and scrunch into a ball to look like ice cream. Add some pretend chocolate sprinkles with some glitter or sequins for chocolate chips. Delicious!
Ice Cream Picture
Take some sand paper and cut into a long triangle shape. Stick onto the paper and draw a big swirly ice cream shape on top. Decorate with what ever you have to hand! Tiny coloured cotton wool balls look great!
Children can use drawing as a way of expressing feelings or emotions that they don't understand - drawing can reflect how they are feeling, or fears they might have However, don't worry that your child only draws in black or never puts hands on the people she draws because it doesn't necessarily mean they are unbalanced or unhappy. However, it is interesting to see how different children interpret things in different ways: both the instructions and the application of drawing can be very different between children of the same age who have been given the same instructions.
Here are a few pointers which may, or may not, reflect different traits in our children.
- If a picture is in the middle of the page, the child is happy, content or it could mean they are egotistical.
- If the picture is in the top half, they are ambitious.
- If the picture is in the bottom half, they child may be insecure.
- If the picture is towards the top left, they are musical or artistic.
- If its in the top right, they are eager.
- If features are missed out in a person, this may indicate mistrust.
- Children tend to draw what they love most: sibling, toys, fantasy world ie. fairies etc.
- Using a ruler frequently in a picture could mean anxiety.
- Lots of dark colours or black could mean sadness, anger or anxiety.
- If they coulour in with bright colours, they are warm and happy children.
- Pictures drawn very small could mean they are shy.
- If the hands are too big, this could indicate aggression.
- If there are no hands or small hands, this could mean they have an inferiority feeling.
However, don't worry too much and get too stuck on interpretation! If your child draws lots of circles it could be that's what they like to draw. If they draw people with their hands up that's not helplessness, it could be a cheer. If they keep drawing bees, it's not a hidden anxiety about insects, it could be just that they are fun, nice things to draw. If they draw lots of flowers, it doesn't mean they are optimistic, it could just be something their Mummy has shown them!
So, looking at and trying to interpret children's drawings is just an interesting exercise to see how your child draws differently to others... so don't read too much into it. And, after all, incoherent pictures don't mean confused or bewildered children, it could be that your child is just not good or practiced at drawing!
Reading to your little ones is such an important activity, but the youngest children will only pick out sounds that they are beginning to understand as words. The act of reading to them allows them to hear words over and over and slowly they will begin to distinguish the different words. In time, they will learn their meaning. In no time at all you'll have a preschooler who has a broad vocabulary, understanding thousands of words.
To encourage hearing and learning words, you can make reading fun by asking questions at the end of each page as you read to them. Read each page to your children and then ask them questions specific to what is happening in the pictures or the story. If you are reading to several children then make sure they all get a turn, and ask questions appropriate to their age and understanding. Your children will begin to widen their vocabulary, hearing the words repeated in a similar context. Make sure that even the youngest are asked their own question, even if it is as simple as 'Where is the sky?', 'Point to something that is red', or 'What animal goes [suitable animal noise]?!'.
Reading to your little ones is one of the most valuable exercises you can undertake during their first few years. Encourage a passion for reading and books and their learning will become so much easier later on. The more you can create an interest in books by making stories interesting and fun, then the better in the longer term for your little ones!
We all know how important reading is for children and that reading to even the tiniest toddler will help them in so many ways, but it can be frustrating if you find that your child loses interest after a little while or simply won't settle when you are ready to read a book.
The first thing to remember, is that this is not unusual. Every child is different and while some love the idea of a book, the pictures, the page turning the flaps etc, others are not interested. They don't want to lift flaps or look at the pictures. They consider reading a book as something passive, they sit back and listen and perhaps fall asleep rather than get involved. Or, they will just lose interest and walk away. The answer is not to force them to sit, be still and listen. It is our job to inspire them.
- Find something they are interested in. Have a chat with your child and find out what they like. They may not like train books, but love books about animals. Then, focus on their interest and keep feeding them more of the same.
- Find books that reflect what they have done or recall a recent event. If they have just been a bridesmaid or been to a castle, find books that relate to this experience. Start by not even opening the book, but look at the front cover and talk about it. Then, talk about their own experience.
- Don't assume that children only want stories(ie. fiction). Some are not interested in wizards or fairies but will be more excited by facts. A book about the body, nature, how cars are made etc may inspire them.
- Don't be too demanding. Don't expect to read pages of words and finish the book each time. You may not even complete each book you start. Read a few pages then if you feel it's time to stop, then do!
- You don't even need to read a single word! Just look at the pictures, talk about the colours and the illustrations. Compare the pictures to real life or imagine how you would draw the pictures.
- Read at different times. While routine can be great for some children and a book before bed can be an ideal time to set aside. Don't think that's the only time you can read with your child. Read before breakfast, or after lunch or take a book out and about to the coffee shop, in a car journey or to the doctor's and read together.
- Make it fun! In winter snuggle under a blanket and have a warm drink together. In summer take a book to the park and sit on a rug under a tree.
- Don't forget the voices... children adore the funny voices that parents and carers put on when reading a book. Try to make the book as animated and as compelling as possible.
- Ask your child to choose the book. Try not to dictate which book you read, give them the choice and don't feel aggrieved if they choose the same one they had yesterday. Children love repetition and familiarity so just read it again or focus on something different this time when you read the book.
- Book activities: A book is more than words: one day how about focusing on the pictures only: count how many sheep in the field or clouds in the sky. Ask your child to find the carrot in the picture or ask what colour the door is. Make the pictures come alive by asking interesting questions that they can answer and feel involved and inspired by what they find in the book.
The World Wide Web provides the most amazing reference to help our children learn about and understand the world. Going back a generation to our own childhood, you would be lucky to have an illustrated encyclopedia, suddenly we have a live reference where we can find information and pictures not only on anything in the past, but on everything new in breaking news stories.
Talk with your toddlers and preschoolers about world events that help to teach topical awareness. Talk with your children about natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and famine. Describe how lucky for what they have and that not everyone is so fortunate. When stories of natural disasters unfold on the news, talk about the issues and show them pictures and videos on the World Wide Web. Obviously avoid showing imagery that is too distressing, and drop the topic if it begins to cause anxiety in your little ones.
You can also use the World Wide Web to augment teaching and understanding of other topics that you cover. When learning colours, look for pictures predominantly portraying each colour. When learning about animals, the sea, space, food or any other topic, find pictures online to give your little one a proper understanding. If you have a smartphone with web access, you can even find explanations and reference pictures when you're out and about and your little one asks a searching question!
Today's children are growing up in a world that we wouldn't have predicted when we were young, knowledge is available instantly and by sharing that with your children, they have the potential to learn and understand at a faster pace than has ever been possible before!
Research has shown that habits made in early years will stay with a child for life; learning is part of that so when the children are young it is a great time to set up some habits that will be good for their learning later in life. All children benefit from reading books. If you get into the habit of reading every day at a certain time of day it becomes part of your schedule and is easy to remember. With a huge selection of books on offer, which are best to choose for your child at different stages of their early years?
Books for Babies and Toddlers Under 2
Children are never too young to enjoy books. They may not speak, or follow a narrative, or be able to turn a page, but sitting with someone, having a cuddle, reading a colourful book becomes a lovely, comfortable, happy experience and that is what they recall. They enjoy the attention and the sound of a parent or carer's voice. They like the feel of the books, the sound of the pages and the colourful pictures. They like the rhymes and the funny voices.
Once they can hold things in their hands, touchy-feely books are great for little ones. Cloth books are soft (washable!) and gentle to touch. Activity books have strings, buttons, and fabric to touch. Flap books have pages that fold out and pictures behind secret little doors. Board books are great to hold and have even been know to be good for chewing too! There is so much fun to be had!
Books for 2-3 Year Olds
Toddlers love the colours and pictures in books. They enjoy rhyme and the repetition of some story lines. They will join in and anticipate what will happen next. Books that explain or deal with every day occurrences are good for this age (going to nursery, going to ballet lessons, having a new baby etc). They may even create their own stories.
They will often look at the same book day after day. The know what happens next and love the idea of anticipating the next page. Pop-up or flap books are great for this age as they can do it themselves. And, sturdy board books are advised as they may get handled frequently and roughly!
Pre-School Books for Children Age 4-5
At this age, children love to learn about the world and books that explain this are always popular with pre-schoolers: bugs and animals, schools and hospitals, the Egyptians etc. so they needn't just have fictional stories, non-fiction is of interest too. Try all sorts of books and discuss each one. What are the pictures like? What is the text like? Can they find certain letters in the text or count certain elements of the pictures? Try and bring the books alive and be led by your child. If they ask about dinosaurs, get hold of a book about them and show them. Visit your local library for access to books on hundreds of interesting topics.
Enjoy the time you have reading with your child and make it as fun as you can.
Recent tests demonstrated that children are more likely to eat fruit if it looks good - children were offered the same types and portions of fruit served in different ways; the more 'attractively' presented it was, the more popular it was.
The researchers studied 100 children at schools in the Netherlands and Belgium and discovered that presentation really did matter. The authors say that parents and schools should follow suit and make fruit look appealing in order to encourage children to eat more of it! The children were aged between four and seven years old and were invited to eat apples, strawberries, and grapes.
Here are our suggestions for presenting fruit in fun ways:
Fruity hedgehog - thread fruit pieces onto cocktail sticks and pop into an orange or potato to make a hedgehog. Add a few grapes as eyes and a slice of cucumber as a mouth.
Pretty plate - put the fruit on a special plate. Buy fun shaped plastic plates and always serve fruit on these special plates.
Make fruit fun - serve different colours of fruit and cut into different shapes: strips, cubes, triangles, wedges, rounds.
Fruit face - have your children make funny faces out of their fruit portions
Make a scene - use fruit cut into different shapes to make a scene, maybe a boat on the waves or a house?
Get them involved - ask the children to help choose the fruit at the shop, help peel it if they can and chop it themselves!
Have lots of ideas and do things differently each time - melon boats, melon smiley face with some grapes as eyes and a nose, melon cubes made into a tower!
Do a tasting - select a few fruits and taste them together chatting about which are your favourites.
Introduce new fruits slowly - you have to see and try a new taste seven times before you are familiar with it so research says! Introduce new exotic fruits from time to time.
Baby is best - baby varieties can be sweeter than the larger options (ie baby tomatoes are really super sweet).
There are lots of activities you can do with your child to introduce them to reading, that don't necessarily involve learning to read in the traditional sense. Here are some tips to make learning to read an easy, fun and inspiring time for both you and your children!
- Look at the pictures: Look at the cover, the pictures throughout the book. Discuss the style, colour scheme, characters depicted.
- Look carefully at the title of the book. Explain to your child what the title is.
- Look at the characters throughout the book. What are they doing? What do they look like? Do they remind you of anyone you know?
- Talk about the sequence of pictures in the book. Look for differences and talk about why may be happening.
- Chat about what might happen in the book. Predict a story together and what the ending might be.
- Make up a story with a different ending and describe what the picture might be if your ending was used instead of that actually in the book.
- Start looking at the words together. Follow the words with your finger and then with your child's finger. Chat about what letters begin each word and sound out the words together.
- Look at the pictures for clues of what's going on in the story. Show your child how the pictures can be a great help when learning to read.
- Focus on the easy words and brush over the hard words or those that are not easily read by new readers (the, said, giraffe).
- Chat about the book the day after and see how much you can remember together.
Most importantly, have fun when reading with your child. Don't get annoyed if they don't understand immediately or struggle on words they knew yesterday. Certainly don't force them to read or make them do it if they're tired or not in the right mood.
Enjoy... learning to read can be so much fun and they will make you so proud when they try hard and make progress.
From their earliest days, babies and toddlers are creating art in their different settings, at home, at playgroup, nursery and school - the progression of their artwork tells a wonderful story of their development. From early splodges and hand and footprints, through to detailed pictures of the family, their house and other scenes that they have witnessed. Every parent is proud of their little one's achievement, and it's lovely to have see their artwork on display in your home.
Here are some ideas on how to display their artwork so that you can be proud of what they make, and they can feel special too:-
- Create a dedicated 'gallery' space for their art; it could be on the refridgerator, a wall in the kitchen, in the hallway or even in the bathroom!
- Look for some cheap frames that you can use in special places, such as the living room or bedroom. You can shop around for cheap clipframes or frames that come complete with prints - just make sure that you can unclip the back and change the artwork for your own
- Change the artwork regularly so that there's always room for newer art
- Keep a large scrapbook and stick in pictures that you have talken down
- Record the date on the back of artwork and write it in the scrapbook too so that you can look back through your child's artistic development
- Turn your toddler's artwork into Christmas Cards or other custon items, see our post on creating personalised Christmas Cards
- Have your child's best masterpieces scanned and printed onto canvas - this turns art into a talking point!