Teaching 2- and 3-year-olds can be challenging. They're so cute...but it's hard work! We've put some teaching tips together for you to help you understand these little guys better and make teaching them easier. Plus there are some craft/game ideas you can try. There are even more ideas on our website.
Why? Why? Why?
To stop an unending series of "whys", give the child a clear explanation, then ask her to repeat it back to you. Explain to her that you want to make sure she understands it. This works best with three-year-olds.
Use plastic Easter eggs to make play people for your children. Pull the eggs apart and glue pebbles into the bottom half of the egg. (If you want your play people to make a rattle noise, use pebbles without any glue.) Glue the two halves of the egg together and decorate the egg with drawn-on eyes, nose, mouth, and hair using a non-toxic, permanent pen.
Edible Play Dough
Combine 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup honey, and 1 1/2 cups dry powdered milk in a large bowl. Mix together well. Place the dough in a covered container and store it in the refrigerator. Cover a table with a clean plastic tablecloth and make sure the children wash their hands before playing with the dough. This mixture can also be used for no-bake cookies. Let the children decorate, then eat their own cookies.
Transform your crafts into learning activities
Crafts are for adults. Learning activities are for children. By turning your crafts into learning experiences, you give the children worthwhile lessons that will be with them long after the craft is gone. Here's how: Focus on what the children can learn rather than on what they can make. Do this (1) by allowing the children to make their own creations even if they vary from the suggested pattern; (2) by describing to the children the sensations they are feeling as they experience their creations; and (3) by pointing out acts of kindness and relating them to what the Bible says about being kind (for example, you might say, "Taking turns is one good way to be kind.").
Twos and threes do not understand sharing. This is evident in the frequent use of the words "me" and "mine." This is not all bad. It is a necessary stage before sharing can take place. Before a child can learn to share something, he must learn to possess it. Sharing is voluntarily giving up what we possess.
"My best friend is a stuffed animal!"
Twos and threes are likely to see their toys as persons and their peers as things. They see other children as nothing more than another toy to play with. It is important that we teach each child that he or she is special. And it's just as important that we teach them other children are special, too.
Make your own picture books
Here are two easy-to-make picture books:
(1) Use a photo album with magnetic pages and insert pictures to show the children.
(2) Use reclosable plastic bags to make a flip picture-book. Sew four or five bags together at the bottom, using a zigzag machine stitch. Cut colored poster board to fit the bags to give the plastic bag book stability. Insert appropriate pictures. Another way to bind the books is to punch holes along the reclosable edge of the bag. Then use yarn or shoestrings to fasten the bags together like a book. Besides pictures, you can also display various objects, like colored leaves or feathers, in the bags.
Now that's a story
Find ways for young listeners to participate in the storytelling. Create a phrase that can be repeated many times when you give a hand signal. For example, you might say, "Jesus said" (extend your arm, then move it toward you), "follow me." The children will say "Follow me" each time you do that motion. This works best when a co-worker can prompt the children.
When you speak to toddlers, be specific. Emphasize nouns, not pronouns. Instead of saying, Scotty, put them over there, say, Scotty, put the books on the bookshelf.
Tour guide for life
Toddlers are their own best teachers. Don't think of yourself as a teacher; think of yourself as life's tour guide. Your task is to plan the itinerary, show toddlers to the place of learning, and then let them explore and discover. Talk to them like a tour guide. For example, while they are finger painting, talk about the colors and texture of the paint. Describe what you and the children are experiencing. By linking language with sight, sound, and activities you will teach the children important pre-reading skills.
Some twos are still in diapers. Don't waste diaper changing time --- it's an excellent opportunity for one-on-one teaching. Play these simple learning games while changing a child's diaper: Using the child's name, say, God made Aaron's legs! (Touch his legs.) Say, God made Aaron's arms! (Touch his arms.) Say, God loves Aaron! (Hug him.) Sing nursery rhymes or short songs together or recite simple, rhythmic poems. Choose three or four vocabulary words a week and put numerous pictures of these on the wall next to your changing area. Occupying the child with interesting things to look at and do will make the process go more smoothly. Lots of times toddlers fight and squirm out of boredom. Don't' neglect the opportunity for a special hug at this time.