School Readiness Tips for Toddlers

by Della H. Harris

Preschool ReadinessYou glance at your rambunctious, distracted, ambitious toddler. It's hard to imagine that child listening and participating in a classroom setting.

Should you be practicing school skills now? Do you need workbooks and flashcards?

Probably not. Your toddler can play his or her way to school readiness. Enjoy these fun, age-appropriate activities. They'll set the stage for school success in the years to come.

Seven Activities To Get Your Toddler Ready for School

1. Shop 'Till You Drop

Toddlers need to hear a lot of words to learn how to communicate. Talking about where you're going, the things you see and the people you meet set the stage for a growing vocabulary.

What you'll need:
✔ A shopping list

What to do:
✔ Pick a time your child isn't hungry or tired
✔ Walk through the store and select the items on your list
✔ Let your child feel them. Talk about the cold milk and the rough and bumpy orange.
✔ Name object you see on the shelves and talk about them.
✔ Play games. "Let's buy the cereal in the red and blue box. Can you find it?" or "Listen to the noise the macaroni makes when I shake it. Can you shake the box?"
✔ Encourage your child to say "hi" and "bye" to the clerk.
✔ Head home before your toddler gets grumpy or tired.

2. Give Choices -- "This or That"

Social development is how your child gets along with others. Learning how to use words, handling emotions and feeling in control can begin with something as simple as making choices.

Give your toddler a feeling of control by offering a choice between two things. "Would you like to have a snack or keep playing with your toys?" "Which shirt do you want to wear? The blue one or the green one?"

3. Making Music

Music and dance help kids learn how to listen, coordinate movements and express themselves creatively. Studies indicate that babies and toddlers who learn to make music do better later in school.

What you'll need:
✔ Music
✔ Noise makers such as plastic bowls, toilet paper tubes, pots, lids, spoons and rattles.

What to do:
✔ Turn on the music. Encourage your toddler to try banging a wooden spoon on a pot or blow through an empty toilet paper roll.
✔ Sing and play active songs. Do the hand motions and watch as your tot imitates your movements, claps or hums along with the music.

4. Read Together

Reading books as a family sends your child the message that books are important, enjoyable and full of new things to learn.

What you'll need:
✔ Board books.
✔ Predictable books and books that label and name concepts (such as colors, numbers, shapes)
✔ A child's picture dictionary

What to do:
✔ Read every day. You might find reading makes a quiet transition from play to bedtime or your child might want to read a few minutes several times a day.
✔ Offer sturdy board book to look and and touch. A favorite might have flaps to lift or holes for tiny fingers.
✔ Point to things in the books that your toddler can relate to his or her life. "Look at the picture of the doggy! Do you remember the black and white dog we saw this morning?"
✔ Reread favorite books...over and over.
✔ Read predictable books. These have words or actions that repeat. Your toddler will soon be able to tell you what happens next.

5. Up and Over

Physical activities help toddlers gain control over large muscle groups. They also encourage your child to learn new words and concepts like "over, behind, inside, outside and under." Toddlers love to explore spaces and to climb over, through and into things.

What you'll need:
✔ Stuffed animal or toy
✔ Large carboard boxes
✔ Pillows
✔ A large sheet
✔ A large plastic laundry basket

What to do:
✔ Set several on the floor and let your child have at it.
✔ Give your child a large box to push around the room. It might become a wagon for stuffed animals or toys. It could become your toddler's favorite new seat.
✔ Cover a table with a sheet that reaches to the floor. You've got a rainy afternoon playhouse!

6. Healthy Eating Habits

Creating good eating habits now will save your child from weight and health problems in the future. Make eating healthy foods fun. Here's how:

• Serve fruit as a treat.
• Make popscicles or ice cubes from freshly mashed fruit or fruit juice.
• Make foods into faces, boats and shapes on your toddlers plate.
• Offer nutritious finger foods like vegetables and healthy dips.

7. Make Play Dough

Young kids love to squish and pound dough. Helping make the play dough adds one more opportunity to learn. It gives your child the chance to begin learning how to follow directions, count and measure.

What you'll need:
✔ A play dough recipe
✔ Food extracts, such as almond, vanilla, lemon or
peppermint

How to make it:
✔ Follow your recipe's instructions.
✔ Add food extracts to different chunks of dough to make each smell different.

Playtime tips:
✔ As your making the dough, talk about what you're doing. Let your toddler help you with measuring and adding ingredients.
✔ Let your child handle some of the door when it's still warm and again when it's cooled off.
✔ Play with it! Bring out straws or popsicle sticks to poke into the dough. Hit it with a toy mallet. Make impressions with jar lids, bottle caps and cookie cutters.

Other "readiness" activities get your toddler sorting, counting, throwing, sharing and pretending. Do you and your child have a favorite game?