Look into a mirror & make faces. Teach your child words that match the emotions: "happy, frustrated, excited, surprised, silly..."
Some picture books are based on songs. Learn the tune and sing the story to help your toddler learn the sounds of words.
Read an alphabet book and talk about words that start with each letter sound so your toddler learns that letters and sounds go together.
Use straws or toothpicks to make letters with your toddler. “I made an H. Can you make a T? What sound does a T make?” Practice letters any time!
Play Simon Says with your toddler to make learning to follow directions fun. Find instructions here under "Games".
Look into a mirror with your toddler. Make faces that match emotions like "happy, frustrated, excited, surprised, silly, etc." And talk about them.
Dancing with a scarf, or bright fabric scrap, will help your toddler develop body control and rhythm. Try the song LET’S ALL TWIRL.
Children need to see parents reading. Set aside 5 minutes every day. Read your own book or magazine while your toddler reads theirs.
Stringing beads is a great finger exercise for toddlers. Tie a knot to the end of a shoelace and have your tot slide beads or dried macaroni onto it.
Help your toddler learn opposites by doing things in opposite ways. Clap slowly and then quickly. Bend down low and reach up high. Talk quietly and loudly.
Look at a picture of your family with your child. Talk about the people while learning family names: aunt, mom, brother, grandmother, etc.
Sing with your toddler as you do daily activities. Example: “This is the way we brush our teeth.”
Draw a story with your toddler. It can have just 3 pictures: beginning, middle, and end. This helps your child learn that stories have these parts.
After you read a book, act out what happened in the story with your toddler. If you read about frogs, hop and ribbit like a frog.
Write in applesauce! Your toddler may use a whole hand, a few fingers, or one finger. Point out how they can make lines & shapes with one hand or two.
Talk about colors with your tot while you do laundry. "The clothes in this pile are all blue or black. Which pile has red clothes? Do you see any white socks?"
Read things you see with your toddler like road signs and food names on containers. This helps connect meaning to letters and words.
Make music with things you have in your house. Tap a pot or a box with a spoon. Sing a song as you make music with your toddler.
Outside, write letters in the dirt with a stick. Name the letters for your child as you write them. Let them try too. Cover the letter shapes with rocks.
I SPY helps your toddler work on listening skills. Give your child two hints “I spy something red you can eat.”
Move a toy from place to place. "Where is it?" Teach your toddler to use words about where the toy is like "Under the table" or "Behind the pillow".
You don’t have to read the words in a book to share it with your toddler. Look at the pictures and talk about what is happening. Make your own story!
Sing If You're Happy & You Know It. Start out with these lyrics & work up to allowing your tot to chose an action & add it to the song.
Keep plastic jars with small lids & hide safe items inside. Give your toddler one jar at a time. They build writing muscles as they take the lid off & on.
Move like different animals with your toddler. “Can you leap like a frog or swing your trunk like an elephant?” Build large motor skills and vocabulary!
Walk around your home & talk about the things you see. Tell your toddler how the fridge & stove work.Talk about shapes & colors you see in the kitchen.
Help your toddler make connections to the story and/or pictures as you read. “Look, the boy is playing with a blue ball like yours.”
Songs can teach your toddler new words. Show them a picture of a grandfather clock when you sing and act out HICKORY DICKORY DOCK.
Have your tot use string or yarn & cheerios to string a bracelet. This activity strengthens their hand muscles & hand-eye coordination.
Line 3 toys up by size: big, little and in-between. Rearrange them. Have your toddler put them back in order to build memory and math skills. Try again!
Go for a walk with your toddler and talk about the trees, birds, bugs, and plants you see. Your child will learn new words about the world around them.
Young children mimic their parents so let them see you enjoying reading newspapers, magazines, and books!
Take a break, put on some kid's music, and dance around with your toddler. Movement to song helps build muscles and brain pathways!
Take a walk in a park. Talk about the shapes & colors you see. Ask your child questions: what do they see, hear, and smell?
Write letters on paper and have your toddler paint over them with a Q-tip. They will strengthen the small muscles in their hand needed for writing.
Give your toddler a big bowl of water & some plastic containers. Let them practice pouring. Have a towel ready for spills.
Let your toddler turn the book’s pages. It’s OK if they skip pages or like some pages better than others. Your child will get used to enjoying books.
Talk with your toddler while you are traveling in the car, on the bus, or walking. On your way, describe shapes you see. Say "That sign is square."
Put flour on a baking sheet and write letters with your finger. Have your toddler write a message on the sheet. Ask them to tell you what they wrote.
Read books that are songs to your tot, such as these! The pictures will add meaning to already familiar songs.
Find a doll or stuffed animal and help your toddler tuck it in to bed. Make-believe play helps your child’s social & brain development.
Read the name on a cereal box, pointing out words as you go. Your toddler will connect the idea that written words tell us important things.
Every time you walk up or down stairs, count each step aloud with your toddler to teach numbers & counting.
Pretend your toddler is a waiter & tell them to write down your order. Scribbling on paper is a great way to build writing skills & converse.
Play with a few bowls of different sizes with your toddler. Stack the bowls inside each other & them take them out & talk about sizes, like big & small.
Next library visit, ask for short picture books that are bilingual. Hearing new language sounds will grow your toddler’s verbal skills.
Everywhere you go, talk about what you see. A stop sign, a traffic light or a tree might seem boring to you but it’s a whole new world to your child.
Using a mirror is a great way to play with your toddler! They learn by watching the mirror & listening to you describe their face.
Find a magazine or newspaper & cut out letters and pictures. On a piece of paper, glue the letters down & then the pictures that start with that letter.
Tie ribbons or strings to a stick. Play music & have your toddler move the ribbons to the beat. Your toddler’s mind & body will learn to work together.
Trace your toddler's hand on paper with a pencil. Trace a book, trace the lid of a jar. Talk about shapes to build vocabulary. What else can you trace?
Matching games help your toddler develop thinking skills. Pull shoe pairs from your closet, mix them up, and ask your toddler to match them correctly.
Ask your child to imitate you, such as wiggling your fingers, pretending to be asleep, etc. They're learning to follow directions & building vocabulary!
Take a walk & read street signs to your toddler, pointing at each letter. This activity will help your toddler notice text all around them.
When your toddler draws a picture, listen to the story that goes with it, write down the words you hear. Now read it aloud together!
Play a song & pause it. Sing a line again, changing the last word to another word that rhymes.
If you go apple picking, talk about the 5 senses. “I hear bees buzzing, see families smiling, smell doughnuts, taste sweet apples, and feel warm sunshine.”
Write a letter on the sidewalk with chalk. Have your child place stones over the shape of the letter.
Ask your child to pretend to read a story to their stuffed animal or doll. Practice turning each page & have them say what's happening on each one.
Teach your child letters by playing with blocks. Lay out blocks on the floor in a circle to make an O, then cross two rectangles to make an X.