Teaching Your Toddler: Advice From a Teacher

With a background in teaching PreK-1st Grade, I’ve seen a multitude of students come bouncing through my classroom door. Some are well prepared, while others have some catching up to do. All students, however, are eager and excited to learn! It’s in their nature. And it’s our job, as parents, to begin fostering that love of learning well before school is on the horizon. There are an abundance of skills that we need to be teaching our children in their toddler years, including:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • counting
  • shapes
  • colors
  • manners
  • problem solving
  • sharing

Parents (and teachers), however, often neglect to develop skills beyond the basics listed above. Hear me when I say you should not replace the foundational skills you are teaching your toddler with fancier, isn’t my child SO smart, types of extensions. But, teaching your toddler concepts like directionality and vocabulary, for example, demonstrates confidence in their ability to learn anything under the sun. Combine that with watching your child ooze with pride for knowing such big kid things, and you’ve scored a big win for the mom team.

Here are some additional concepts to address accurately that will leave your child feeling like a big man on campus and leave you feeling satisfied:


Let’s take directions left and right, for example. This is one of the easiest things to teach! (Let’s not confuse that with the easiest thing to learn, but consistent repetition makes it a piece of cake.) You are taking your little Mr. Independent for a trike ride around the hood. This is a perfect time to allow for choice, so you relent your desire for control and let your little lamb choose which direction you head down the sidewalk. You’re already going to ask him if he wants to go this way or that, so why not just ask if he wants to go left or right?

Teaching Your ToddlerDirectionality can also be  easily practiced while driving. She’s going to ask you a hundred, sorry, I mean a thousand questions in the car nonetheless, so just tell her you’re turning right onto Collins Road, quickly followed by an unexpected (but necessary) left into Starbucks. The opportunities to teach directions are endless and take approximately 0.5% of your time and effort.  When your toddler effortlessly asks the lady at the Children’s Museum to mark his left hand while sticking it out with confidence, she smiles with a twinkle in her eye and looks impressed beyond words. Go ahead and gloat, you hardly had to earn it, yet you look like a champion mom extraordinaire.


“How’s your snack today?” You can increase vocabulary by teaching responses such as delicious, scrumptious, refreshing, or delightful. “Good” is so last year, not to mention an easy way out of answering questions. Teaching vocabulary is everywhere! The stop sign is an octagon and the steam coming out of the back of the car is exhaust. When she helps you make supper, she is your sous chef and when his brain works really hard to learn new things he’s growing dendrites. The author is the person who wrote the book and the illustrator drew the stunning pictures. (While you’re snuggled up reading, go ahead and spend those extra 5 minutes asking questions throughout the story to increase his emerging comprehension.) Finally, when asked how he’s doing today, his response can include fantastic, superb, or well. (Again, “good” is entirely overused, not to mention grammatically incorrect.) Preach it, sister! Your little sweetie will stand a little taller knowing such big kid things and be given the confidence boost she needs to stand out in a crowd. Feeling smart will always be in style and being kind to others is the perfect accompaniment.

Teaching the Essentials

Let’s forget about the fun extensions for a moment. Are you struggling just to teach the bare essentials to your toddler? Stop stressing and have fun! The less you force learning the more natural and easy it becomes. While working on letter and number recognition you better believe you should be using the environmental print around you. Practice the letters and numbers you see on the electrical boxes, signs, and house numbers as you walk through your neighborhood. Talk about the colors and shapes you see in a theatrical game of “I Spy” and always, always substitute flashcards and workbooks with food, markers, songs, paint, pipe cleaners, or the most creative accent you can muster through an old toilet paper tube.

Teaching Your ToddlerRemember that these little people we love so dearly are kids. Just that, kids. We want to show the world how incredibly smart they are, but we need to remember that the best learning will take place when it’s natural, developmentally appropriate, easily absorbed, and utterly, absolutely, undeniably fun. Now get out there and teach your kids to declare your supper to be delectable and your time together priceless!

Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Whitney Rasmussen, for sharing her perspective with us today!

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