When I think of learning, I used to connect it to sitting down in a classroom with a teacher in front. For little ones, however, learning happens anywhere, anytime – not just in the classroom. We started teaching the minis as early as in their infancy. According to our pediatrician, Dra. Felita Lucena, it is best practice to let little ones explore since it is through exploration that their skills develop. This is called Exploratory Learning. Our role as parents (and their first teachers) is to guide them as they explore and discover new things. Here are some exploratory play activities that are fun and will encourage learning.
Exploratory Play Activities Toddlers Will Love
There are many exploratory learning activities you can do with your kids. These activities do not cost a lot and the materials you need are easily available. I have tried these with my kids (now 17 months old and 3 years old) and we are very happy with the results.
Activity #1: Outdoor Play
I have heard and read it a hundred times: Children are sponges that absorb everything they experience. What better way to encourage learning but to expose them to the great outdoors. When the minis were infants, we would take them on daily walks while inside their carrier. When they can sit down, we would put them in their stroller and walk them around the village. When they can walk, we would take them out every day and let them explore the surroundings. Every time we go out with them, we take that opportunity to explain their surroundings.
When they touch a flower, we would say, “That’s a flower… a yellow flower! Do you like it?” When we see a car pass by, we would say, “That’s a nice red car, right?” There are numerous things you can teach your children during outdoor play time. Aside from the names of things, you can teach your kids the alphabet, shapes, colors and numbers. Plus, outdoor play gives both you and your child your daily dose of exercise! The fun kind! 😀
Activity #2: Blocks and Puzzle Mats
If you ask me what kind of toy a child must have, I’d say blocks. Kids love blocks as these allow them to be creative. The Princess likes making castles, airplanes, boats, and shapes using blocks. The Little Man, on the other hand, likes making tall towers. More than encouraging creativity, playing with blocks develops children’s math and spatial knowledge.
To make play time even more fun, I usually add puzzle mats to their materials. We use these puzzle mats to build cubes, tunnels, and even houses! Trust me, kids love this.
Activity #3: Watercolor Painting and Coloring
Do you want to teach your little ones colors? One activity you can introduce is watercolor painting. You can even amaze them by showing them that they can create new colors by mixing two colors! Just be sure that your watercolor paint and crayons are non-toxic.
Activity #4: Sculpting With Play Dough
Honestly, I do not usually do this activity with the minis because I fear that they (especially The Little Man!) might eat the dough. But, when I do take out their play dough, they get extremely excited about it. They absolutely love making figures out of it so I searched for dough that is safe for them so they can have fun without giving me a heart attack. Here’s a recipe of edible play dough you can try if you are also concerned about your child eating the play dough.
Activity #5: Field Trips
Going on field trips is probably the most effective learning activity we do with the minis. This is where they learn about things that we do not usually get to teach at home and during outdoor play. Recently, we took the minis to a trip to Taal Volcano. This is where they first learned about volcanoes. We also recently went to a beach trip to Sta. Ana Cagayan where they had a chance to hang out in Palaui Island, the famous location of the television show, Survivor. We took that opportunity to teach them about underwater life. There they made sand sculptures, collected shells in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and caught little hermit crabs on the beach.
Activity #6: Play Dates
Aside from the intellect, it is very important to develop the social and emotional skills of little ones. To do this, we take the minis on weekly play dates either with their cousins or with other kids in Gymboree. Through interaction with other kids, values taught at home such as compassion, sharing, and teamwork are applied outside of the home.
If you find your child hurting another child on his/her first play date, don’t feel like you failed at parenting! Although The Princess adapted pretty well with other kids on her first play date, The Little Man did not do well at first. When this happens, simply take your child away for a while and explain to him that it is not nice to hit and that if he wants something, he just needs to ask.
Do you encourage Exploratory Learning as well? Share your favorite exploratory play activities in the comments section below!
Other fun activities you can try with your kids: