What Learning looks like for Toddlers
We have a saying at Guardian that ‘Toddlers rule the world’. And we adore them for it.
If you’ve ever seen a toddler in full “I can do it myself” mode, then you know exactly what this means. Testing their power in the world and wanting to do things by themselves is an important step in developing the confidence and independence that are key for becoming lifelong learners.
Literacy for Toddlers
What’s in a name? Well, a child’s name is an important word when learning to read and write.
When a baby begins to respond to their name or the names of other familiar people and things, they are beginning to understand that certain words represent the important people and consistent things in their lives, including themselves. For a toddler, this concept extends to ownership and is a powerful indicator and tool for early literacy.
If you’ve ever heard a toddler shout ‘Mine!” then you’ve observed an important milestone in their early life. All of a sudden they recognise their belongings and where they go. They recognise their name and what it means.
In Guardian Centres, you will see this encouraged through having consistent places for each child’s belongings, labelled with their picture and their written name. This is foundational literacy at work.
It is also in the toddler years that children start ‘mark making’ and showing control with tools, fingers and toes, modelling writing with other children, and beginning to understand the direction of writing.
From songs and books, children will learn words, sentences, rhythm and rhyme, which are powerful tools when teaching the principles of literacy. Rhythm and rhyme, in particular, allow children to predict what comes next, even if they don’t necessarily know how to read the word yet.
When encouraging early literacy concepts in toddlers, we do so through play and group interaction. What does that look like?
- Sharing ideas and opinions at group time to build vocabulary and confidence in using language.
- Plenty of exposure to printed words.
- Recognising familiar words, particularly their name.
- Encouragement to use mark-making, drawing and arts to express themselves.
- Children consistently learning from their peers.
- Educators using new words in context to make them meaningful and relevant to children.
- Children being free to read throughout the day with books and materials being easily accessible. Books build confidence and help develop the process of reading, memory and comprehension.
Numeracy for Toddlers
Toddlers can begin to grasp the fundamental concepts of math by touching objects, placing them in an order and grouping objects together. Over time, they begin to understand that one number ‘stands for’ one object – known as one-to-one correspondence. This is a key building block for more complex math concepts as they reach preschool or kindergarten age.
We want children at Guardian to develop a lifelong love of learning. And that’s why we use hands-on experiences to support them as they learn.
For toddlers, learning math concepts naturally becomes more complex as they start incorporating counting into their own learning independently. For example, they start to relate numbers to themselves:
- “I am two and he is littler than me”
- “I am taller than her”
- “She is three and she is bigger than me”
- “The cup is bigger and holds more water”
Such observations demonstrate children are beginning to understand the comparison, scale, age and volume in real-world terms.
At Guardian, we offer a variety of open-ended materials to encourage this type of learning and to allow children to create patterns with various materials. Pattern making is an important part of numeracy development as it requires critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving and translating what they see in the world into a representational form.
It is clear from observing young children that numeracy is entrenched in their thinking process from the get-go. So, Teachers and Educators encourage children to solve their own problems and use real-world examples to create meaningful connections. We also undertake a lot of projects, calendar and experiment work to encourage children to work with time concepts, such as ‘tomorrow’, ‘this afternoon’, ‘last week’.
- When toddlers play dress ups and make-believe with their friends, it’s more than play – they’re learning social skills relating to sharing, caring and taking turns. They are imitating the adults they observe around them, and they’re laying a fundamental foundation for their social and emotional development, which is key for a successful transition into formal schooling.
- When toddlers first discover their own shadow, it is met with delight and then experimentation with the sense of power they have over this new entity. We often observe children playing with the magic of this new concept – jumping on their shadow, making shapes, using light and shade to appear and disappear. Such experiences are, for our little learners, the beginnings of thinking differently, asking questions and problem-solving.
Our Teachers and Educators are skilled at supporting children to contribute to real tasks – so they know they are valued, important and acknowledged for their efforts. Being able to do things “all by myself” might be a challenge for parents who are trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible, but this is a chance for what we call ‘unhurried time’. Toddlers gain a great source of pride and a strong sense of self from their independent actions.
What Learning Looks Like
at Different Ages
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