To handle a toddler is complicated, whether it’s your first experience or you have already experienced the joys of becoming a parent. It is very important to understand that every toddler has a different personality that will change (maybe preserving many or few peculiarities) until it becomes an adult. It is not possible to paint us all with the same brush and things don’t change when we talk about learning.
Let’s just think about all the techniques of learning and studying developed through the years: e.g. the philosophy about infant education according to Italian teacher Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method is still in practice in many schools in various countries even though there are detractors claiming that it has proved to be inefficient. Instead, what about Steiner’s pedagogical approach? His method, also called Waldorf education, is appreciated by many parents and used in many schools; yes, other experts of the field claim the Waldorf Method is not only useless, but actually dangerous in developing the character of children, mostly for the large freedom of expression left to the students without any kind of barrier. Many people disagree with the fact of not giving rules to children even though, luckily, corporal punishments are not considered as a way of educating your children anymore.
So, supposing that we are wondering what is the best way to help our toddler become a clever, respectful, kind and smart person. What’s the answer? Schools exist to provide, together with teaching subjects, some basic concepts (they can slightly vary depending on the normative of each country). These concepts derive from the study of psychology and pedagogy.
A toddler should be free to develop some ideas rather than achieving tasks. Those ideas will then bring them to follow some interests and, just in that moment, to excel in something.
So the inputs we should provide a toddler to give them a good starting point should be something like the following:
1. Relating with the others. This is particularly important for an only child. Through social relations the young human being learns firstly about themselves and how treat others and be treated. There is surely much to learn from encounters with different personalities and, if the toddler is a little bold this would be a chance to let it understand that a certain negative behaviour will have consequences. If they want to be accepted in a social group, they will need to consider and respect different points of view. Let your kids socialize with others; try to find the time to bring them where they can meet friends.
2. Moving the body. Help the toddler learn how their body works. They will need to become autonomous: feeding themselves, dressing up, taking care of personal hygiene. Don’t spoil the toddler and don’t be too indulgent; yet, you also have to be patient. For example, bedwetting is normal until a certain age but if you criticise them too much you could obtain a result other than what you desire: the reproach could generate a high level of uneasiness, transforming a small thing into a type of trauma.
3. Learning to speak. It is important for a toddler to listen before learning how to talk. Speaking in two languages could be a plus because the young brain is more capable of learning. The toddler will absorb an impressive quantity of words so try to avoid rude language. We all enjoyed learning the “bad words” when we were younger and the more our parents were telling us “don’t say this word” the more we liked saying it.
4. Familiarizing with creativity. Together with language, it is useful to introduce a toddler to other forms of communication: images, sounds, handcrafting, dances, technology. The purpose is not to find out that you have a prodigy child who can play the piano at the age of two, but to make it conscious about the things it might want to do in the future.
5. Learning about the world. Drawings, listening to music and hanging out with friends are all activities we can do indoors. But we mustn’t forget about the contact with nature. This is important for two reasons: first, to discover the different environments around us (e.g. how is country life perceived by a toddler living in the city and vice versa), to learn that the world is not just what we can see outside our window and, second, to make the toddler aware of itself in the space. Its brain will be able to understand where its body is located in the space, to orientate itself and to follow directions. Spending time doing outdoor activities will allow the toddler to observe natural phenomena and living creatures; they will start formulating hypothesis to explain what they see, to learn specific terms to describe what they see. Parents will provide them with the appropriate language and explanations and, possibly, they will be able to teach their children to respect nature and living things.