A Parent's Guide to a Toddler's Responsive Learning Environment
- Make use of famous works of art: Change the pictures in the child's room once a month. Have available varied pictures, posters, charts, etc. Traditional children's pictures can be mixed with reproductions of famous works of art (usually available on loan from libraries, museums, or universities). Hang some of the reproductions at the child's eye level. Hayward states, "A two-year-old child I knew would often get out of her bed at nap time and sleep on the floor underneath a picture that she adored which was taped about two and one-half feet above the floor" (p.17).
- Have a surprise bag: Change the object once or twice a week. Without looking inside the bag the child puts his or her hand inside, then feels the surprise and tries to guess what it is. Begin with objects that are easy to identify and, as the child's ability to observe and analyze increases, use objects that are less readily distinguishable. Treat the child's mistakes as helpful clues and encourage risk-taking.
- Hang educational charts: Have charts of the alphabet, animals, the development of a seed into a plant, etc., on the wall for the child to observe and discuss. (These charts are available at educational supply stores.) Clear contact paper extends the life expectancy of pictures or paper materials that children will be handling.
- Use child-sized bookshelves: Place the bookshelves low enough to allow children to reach books, magazines, catalogs, department store fliers, and other reading materials that are an important part of the child's environment.
- Use the yard as a laboratory: The yard can be a marvelous laboratory wherein the child can observe and experiment. Such things as where puddles go, why shadows change their size and shape, how rocks can be so many different colors, etc., can be fascinating. Do some of the experiments listed in children's science books.
- Use the community for learning: Libraries, museums, children's theaters, concerts, tide pools, markets, and businesses all enrich the child's experience. Prepare for the "field trip" by discussing and reading about the whats and whys of the place you will be visiting. Have the child ready to look for some specific item or event when you go. Be sure to discuss the trip when you return, and allow the child to do something to record or remember the important things that were observed. An increasing number of resources and classes to help children develop important skills are now available for the toddler.
Source: Adapted from Early learners (pp. 16-18) by A. Hayward, 1985, Los Angeles: The Education Institute.
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