As your child grows you set limits, look for opportunities, and try to figure out what your child needs at each stage in her development. It isn’t always easy to tell what you can do to most help your child especially in the earliest years of her life.
When your child is only 1 or 2 years old you should now look for opportunities for her to make her own choices. Ask her whenever you can what her choice is. Would she like a cup of water in a red cup or in a blue one? Encourage her making a choice. Many times she will say she doesn’t care, but even giving her the chance to choose is worth it.
At this early stage of her development she needs lots of chances to use large muscles in her arms and legs. Play ball with her. Run around the yard with her. She may not do very much running in her first year, but she needs to build those muscles so they will be there to help her as she develops the skill to run.
Don’t forget to encourage her use of small muscles to move small objects such as toys and books. Give her blocks to play and to learn to stack. While you want to have many small objects for her to play with, do not get them so small that she will put them in her mouth.
When she plays with blocks, she learns more things. She will learn she can stack them quite high but then they are likely to fall over. She is learning about the consequences of things she does.
Give her opportunities to practice her language skills. Talk with her about the things around her. When you take her out into the yard, point out some of the special things your yard has. Show her the tree that is really growing this year. Let her play with the leaves and touch the branches. Listen to what she says as you are talking together. Encourage her to tell Daddy what she did today.
Provide her with activities that encourage her to touch, taste, hear, smell and see new things. When you are cooking, let her taste some of what you are making. If you have music playing, encourage her to listen and maybe to join in. Certainly encourage her to talk. She needs every opportunity possible to develop this skill.
Be sure to introduce her to books and other print items. Let her be the one to try to turn the pages in the book you are reading together. Let her pick out the next book to read. After you have read a book together several times, see if she will “read the book” to grandma. Even at a very young age she will be able to talk about the pictures in the book as well as remember some of the parts of the story.
Introduce her to letters and numbers. Tell her what they are and what they represent. So when she is two, be sure she recognizes the number 2. Let her also learn the letter that begins her name. Make a big deal when you come across that specific letter.
All of these are opportunities for a very young child. That is what you very young child needs. Remember, you are her first teacher. Your teaching begins from her earliest years and last a very long time.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.