“85 percent of a child’s brain development takes place by the age of 5. Synapses are created with astonishing speed in the first three years of life. For the rest of the first decade, a child’s brain has twice as many synapses as an adult’s brain. This means that a child’s environment during the first five years of life can greatly impact the brains’ ability to develop.”
“What occurs during the first five years of life can have an enormous impact on not only do well the baby’s brain develops at the moment but how well that baby learns and grow throughout their lifetime,”
Being a mum for the first time opened a door of opportunity for me to see an amazing miracle of a person developing from the very beginning. My child is 15 months old now and I can not get enough of her. Every day there is a new discovery, newly gained skill, new fascination, new developmental stone reached, a new shade of the character appearing.
In this post I would like to share activities I prepare for my toddler. I will explain my choices and why these particular experiences benefit her development. Your child might be interested in completely different things, however, I hope it will help you to find ways to prepare an exciting and engaging environment for your child. If you just step back and observe your child you will know exactly what will fit perfectly on the shelf at a certain time of your child’s growth. For example, I have noticed that our Little Bell LOVES to play with lids. She also could spend ages trying to open or put a lid on the yogurt squeezy tube. So I decided to collect various objects that are easy for her to manage as an “open and close” activity. A few months ago I tried to introduce this activity to her, but she obviously was not interested. Now, this activity is meaningful to her and she enjoys manipulating these things.
Items I picked this time were: a yogurt jar, a play card box, a pen gift box, a Russian doll, a DVD case, and a book box. Most of these objects she could manage herself without my help. If before she would open a box and leave it on its own, now she puts all her effort into trying to close. Maria Montessori was emphasizing the importance of attention to detail. Toddlers are very sensitive to details at this age.
The next activity I would like to share is “Three little birds”. You might know children’s popular rhyme “Two little birds”. I happened to have this Christmas tree decoration with three wooden birds in it. The purpose of this activity is to encourage the child to place objects back to the original spot and learn to control the hand movement. I changed the words of the rhyme. I lifted birds one at a time from the tray, placed them on the mat in front of it, and then put them back in their spot. As I was doing it I was saying the rhyme: ” Three little birds sat on a tree, one named Jack, the other named Jill and the third named John. Fly away Jack, fly away Jill, fly away John. Come back Jack, come back Jill, come back John”. After the demonstration, my baby girl was very keen to do it herself and she did. I was saying rhyme as she was lifting these birds and placing them back.
There are a few toys that I leave on the shelf for a few weeks, as they require some time for a young child to master them. Practise makes it perfect. She practices putting cylinders through holes, a wooden toy into the cup, and putting a wooden shape through the hole in the box. It brings her so much satisfaction to accomplish it by herself. It is amazing, that at an early age they take so much pride in being able to accomplish tasks on their own. I adore those happy looks she gives me every time she manages to do something she could not do on her own before.
Another milestone that she has just achieved was stacking pyramid rings
on top of each other. It is a wonderful activity for teaching concepts like size, color, weight (especially wooden ones, as they get heavier with every ring). The concentration that is required as this age to stack the pyramid rings is amazing. Little Bell enjoyed playing with the pyramid so much.
I showed a few activities that are still a bit too hard for her at the moment. These are not very popular. She enjoys watching me do them but does not like to do these on her own yet. This is a work in progress. For example, a seed bud musical instrument and color sorting. I think it is beneficial to have challenges like these that will keep the child outside their comfort zone: “oh there is something I need to work on”.
These toys are on the shelf to represent different textures and materials. They are easy to grab, good to feel, and fun to shake.
Little Bell just discovered pull toys. Don’t you love to witness their “A-ha” moments and share joy of new discoveries like this? She figured out that you can pull the toy and it will follow you behind. She loves it.
Emotional maturity is one of the key elements of brain development. Learning and knowing how to read people’s emotions is essential for building strong interpersonal connections. The more emotionally mature the person is the more they will be able to be happy in their relationships, whether it is at work, in the family or with friends. Emotional education can start quite early. Little Bell has her favourite book of all times – brings me to read it numerous times a day – called “Funny faces”. This brilliant book contains photos of young children showing different emotions: “happy”, “sad”, “angry”, “excited”, etc. We talk each of these through and I try to reflect on each by showing similar emotion. Our girl is quite good at detecting other people’s emotions especially when they are obviously upset. I give majority of the credit for it to this book.
Here we are. Again, the key is to know your child and follow their interests, also give some challenge, and let them take their sweet time to master skills. They will make you proud 🙂
Here are some great books on Montessori-Inspired activities for babies and toddlers:
Beginning Montessori With Infants and Tots Birth to 24 Months
Child’s Play: Montessori Games and Activities for Your Baby and Toddler
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