After my son turned two, I decided to become even more proactive with his learning. At this age and throughout the age of five, I believe that play is the best way for children to learn, however, I believe that structure is important too and helps children to adjust from home to daycare to preschool. Additionally, I believe that parents are the child’s primary teacher. If you do not instill a love for learning in your child before they enter kindergarten, it is more difficult for them to catch up with their peers in school. My mom instilled learning in fun accessible ways through computer games and a VTech computer.
Now that we live in a more technological time, educational tools are plentiful, easy to access, and (usually) inexpensive. However, we find ourselves with an array of choices but have a hard time choosing between which ones are the best. We install apps thinking that they are best for our children only to find out that they are the “lite” version, cluttered with ads, require subscriptions and in-app purchases, our toddler already mastered it in a day, or that they are not really as educational as the company markets it as. Easier were the days when you can just buy a $100+ dollar LeapFrog and its accompanying cartridges and not have to worry about researching options and having your credit card billed every month in the name of your child’s learning. Well, not anymore! My suggestions require no in-app purchases, no subscriptions, no lite versions, and no popup ads. Instill the learning in your tot without the hassle!
Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy Kids is a relatively new app, created in July 2018 by the well known company, Khan Academy. It is geared towards children ages 2 to 5 years old and it uses fun animations and songs to teach tots about letters, numbers, phonics, colors, animals, shapes, logic, reading, writing, and more. I downloaded this on my son’s Amazon Kids Kindle Tablet and he loves it! The best part about it is that it is completely free, has no ads, and is fun and user friendly. They don’t spend a lot of money advertising so it is a hidden gem for parents with tots.
Flash cards are great ways to teach young children. This may bring you back to the days of homemade blank flash cards with scribbled on words that you used to memorize information for high school and college exams. However, colorful flash cards with fun pictures on them are great to teach toddlers and preschoolers about letters, numbers, colors, shapes, animals, and more. I got five sets of flash cards from Target for $5 total. They were only $1 each!
Your Local Library
UPDATE: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, as of September 22nd 2020, libraries are only open for essential services and are not open for events, browsing, playtime, or use of computers. You can log in on your library’s website for online resources and videos or to reserve books to pick up from the library.
The library is a great place for children to start learning. My local library has a lot of resources for toddlers and preschoolers including.
a) Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler Books to borrow
b) A Lego play area with blocks and cars that helps children learn cooperative play
c) A preschool computer that has lots of old school learning computer games, such as Reader Rabbit, Jumpstart, Dora the Explorer, and other learning games.
d) Toddler Time- If your child is not in daycare, this is a great opportunity for you to take your baby, toddler, or preschooler to listen to stories, rhymes, songs, and have open play to learn how to interact better with other children. I took Joshua to Toddler Time since he was 6 months old and I feel like it helped him to socialize with other toddlers. Toddler Time is usually on Tuesdays, but check your local library to see the days and times.
e) RIF- This is a program so that you can get free books for your child between ages 0-17. If you go to the library every week that RIF is scheduled (My local library has it on Friday), then on the third week, your child will get a free book! You can stop by the library with your child after work, since this runs on afternoons/evenings. Find out more from your local library about the date and time.
f) Storytime- My local library (and most libraries) have storytime on Saturday for all ages (so you can go whether you’re a stay at home mom or working mom!) They read books and have activities for kids, including puppet shows, so it is great for toddlers and preschoolers.
g) Summer Reading and Other Events- Summer Reading is a program from late June to late August where students read books on the summer reading list and record the books they read for rewards. They have many events during the summer reading period at the library, such as magic shows, performances, and theater. Go to your local library for more information.
h) Free Resources
You get a variety of free resources both virtually and manually at the library. My favorite resource is the Read, Play, and Grow on the go because when we are outside, we can sing nursery rhymes together instead of distracting him with screen time.
i) Ready, Set, Kindergarten- For ages 3 to 5 years old, there is a program for a series of Saturdays twice to thrice a year that helps preschoolers learn skills that they need for kindergarten. I did not go with my son yet because he just turned two, but will go when he gets old enough.
PBS Kids and Video
PBS offers two apps with educational games and videos free of charge. They consist of some of your kid’s favorite programs, such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Curious George, and Caillou.
Fisher Price Puppy Play
You definitely have some Fisher-Price toys lying around the house, but did you know that they have a free comprehensive app of videos, books, and games for babies and toddlers? Maybe not. This helps your child with letters, numbers, first words, animal sounds, nursery rhymes, and more. This app is completely free of charge and has no ads or in-app purchases.
I hope that I was able to help!