Y’all, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a young 2 year old. And it’ll be a little while longer before I have another one, so remind me of some of the good stuff that I will inevitably leave out.
As with all of my homeschooling I start with a rough idea of what they should know when. Then I try to incorporate those things into our everyday life. I watch to see what they enjoy and follow it. And I don’t push.
What do you want your little one to know? Make a list. An actual, on-paper list. A good place to start is to look at those checklists from your pediatrician. Here’s just one example of a 2 year old skills checklist from a site called Preschool Education. They should be working on gross motor skills (throwing a ball, learning to jump, kicking a ball), fine motor skills (stacking blocks, fitting blocks into correctly shaped holes, holding a crayon), identifying colors, body parts, people, naming the familiar things in their world. Keep in mind these checklists are not for the skills in and of themselves. As with all homeschooling – you want them to learn a skill to apply it elsewhere. If they build fine muscle control – holding a pencil – it will make writing easier down the road. If they learn hand/eye coordination it helps with real life learning later. This is why it’s important to have a rough idea of what they should know and not obssess on ”a list”. And I want mine to begin to understand values and less concrete notions too such as compassion and obedience.
Once you have your list you can begin to see the world fitting into those categories. “This will be good for her fine motor skills”, you’ll find yourself thinking as she plays with playdough and learns to use the cookie cutters with it. “This cup she’s pouring into this other cup in the bath will teach her estimation, cause and effect, and sizes.”
Now that you have a list you need to know that some things, no matter how well they’re taught they will not be mastered until the child is developmentally ready to learn them. And this can vary. Greatly. Just ask some of your mom friends what age their baby learned to crawl. Wide range. Same with all these. I’ve had some children that “set aside” verbal skills while they learn to walk.
Two year olds. First of all, I label everything from birth on. ”I see a kitty. Do you see that sweet kitty?” As they get older, I get a little more intentional. “See that white kitty? I bet she feels soft.” When I give them choices of sippy cups “Do you want the big pink cup or the little purple cup?” while holding them out to be chosen. Over time, they’re learning colors, sizes, opposites, any and everything that you’re labeling. And if you do it enough, it becomes part of your daily dialogue and not so “canned and artificial” feeling. We count things. While rocking on the porch I coo, “I see one car. Oh, two cars passing by. There goes number three.” While I hand out little candies to them I count as I scoot them across the table. When we see numbers in books I trace them with my finger and say the numbers. At every bath time I name the body part I’m washing “Scrub your little head. Wash those cheeks. Get those shoulders. I’m gonna wash that elbow.”
You can clean out large juice bottles really well and give them clothes pins to drop in. They must figure out the correct position of the clothes pin in order for it to drop. They love to rattle it once it’s full (cause and effect – if I shake this, then this will happen). And it’s fun to try to shake them all out afterwards.
Set your muffin pan out and let them put their cheerios into the different compartments. Put one different colored M&M in each compartment and show them how to sort them by color into the different compartments. Don’t expect them to get it. Just show them and then let them do whatever they want with them.
Which toy “matches” another toy – another good game.
I always like the tactile games too. Cut out a shape or letter from sandpaper and let them feel it. Put cool whip in a ziplock and let them make shapes in it by squishing it around with their fingers. Show them shapes, letters, and numbers in it.
We let our little ones play with a little ziplock in the bathtub sometimes (constantly supervised, of course). We blow air into it and seal it for them. “Watch it float!”, we say. Then we fill it with water. “What’s gonna happen next do you think?”, as they learn sequencing. Find different (non typical) bathtub toys and let them guess whether they’ll sink or float. Or simply tell them what it’s doing as it’s doing it. “See? The soap sinks. But the empty cup floats. Those are opposites – sink and float.”
As they finger paint tell them that red plus blue equals purple. Use those words. You’ve just taught art, chemistry, and math in one 3 second lesson. Math is everywhere. And if you can incorporate words they’ll need for school later, it won’t be such a learning curve then.
The same with values you want them to learn. If you want them to “mind” you and you’ll eventually be teaching them the Commandments and Proverbs then why not use the word “obey”. “It’s time to get in the car, you need to obey now.” If they don’t want you to rinse their head in the tub because it scares them – use the word “trust”. “Trust Mama, it’s okay, you’ll just get wet and then it’ll all be over really quickly.” If you want them to “be sweet” to the doggie, then why not say “gentle”. They are concepts you want them to grasp anyway, now’s a great time. “Be gentle, we don’t hit.”
One of the things we say is “We’re Parkers, we share.” See, it’s not an option. You’re one of us, it’s what we do. We share.
Freeze small objects (like their safe sized toys) in small cups and let them play outside with ice cubes on a hot day. Talk about it. Talk about same and similar things. Talk about opposites. Talk about the water.
Let them hold crayons and pencils. Teach them the right way, but don’t demand it. Just let them be. I let my 2 year olds cut with safety scissors. I always have. I’ve also always had people balk at that. That’s okay. I don’t mind. I sit with them. I watch them. I let them try. Let them cut playdough with plastic playdough scissors. It’s building hand strength.
I read to them. And not just small children’s books. Mine are now with me for the olders’ read alouds. And I’ve been surprised how much even my older 2 year old remembered about Dickon loving animals from The Secret Garden.
Let them dress or undress dolls. Repeatedly until you want to scream. With each “can you make this go, Mama?” They’re learning more and more.
Let them help you sort clothes (learning sorting and colors) and put away silverware (sorting and sizes).
I love the Fisher Price site. It has an online toddler section. My little ones (even the babies) like the alphabet game where the animals make noises. They like the peek-a-boo game on there too. We used to own the Praise Baby dvd collection. Oh, how we LOVED those. Sometimes we would sing along, but alot of times we would just name all the objects and animals that came on the screen.
As they get to be older 2s I start working with them on “schoolwork”. Usually just because they’re begging to be like their older brothers and sisters. I wrote about some of the worksheets I’ve made up here.
My daughter loved some of the Kumon books – here’s an example of the cut and paste one MyPrincess loved: Let’s Cut Paper! (Kumon First Steps Workbooks). Simple, bright, fun to do projects.
Read a lot of kid-friendly books.
We read and sing the nursery rhymes.
I love the fridge letters (thank you Maury!) Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set We sing the little tunes that say the letter and the sound all the time. Even when we’re not playing with them.
The main thing is to realize that your little one is already learning more than you could teach her intentionally at this point. Though, it is fun to direct it! Just know that the schools have “manipulatives” because they don’t have access to constant real life objects (like silverware, clothes, shoes, toys, groceries). Take the checklist and view your world through the lens of what fits into what category. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’re already teaching. You can homeschool. You already are.