- General Info
- 1-3 Years Old
- 3-5 Years Old
- Take Charge of TV
Helping Your Child
1-3 Years Old
What to Expect
Between their first and second birthdays, children
- Are energetic, busy and curious;
- Are self-centered;
- Like to imitate the sounds and actions of others (for example, by
repeating words that parents and others say and by pretending to do
housework or yard work with adults);
- Want to be independent and to do things for themselves;
- Have short attention spans if they are not involved in an activity
that interests them;
- Add variations to their physical skills (for example, by walking
- Begin to see how they are like and unlike other children;
- Play alone or alongside other toddlers;
- Increase their spoken vocabularies from about 2 or 3 words to about
250 words and understand more of what people say to them;
- Ask parents and others to read aloud to them, often requesting
favorite books or stories; and
- Pretend to read and write the way they see parents and others do.
Between their second and third birthdays, children
- Become more aware of others;
- Become more aware of their own feelings and thoughts;
- Are often stubborn and may have temper tantrums;
- Able to walk, run, jump, hop, roll and climb;
- Expand their spoken vocabularies from about 250 to 1,000 words during
- Put together 2-, 3- and 4-word spoken sentences;
- Begin to choose favorite stories and books to hear read aloud;
- Begin to count;
- Begin to pay attention to print, such as the letters in their names;
- Begin to distinguish between drawing and writing; and
- Begin to scribble, making some marks that are like letters.
What Toddlers Need
1- to 2-year-old children require
- Opportunities to make their own choices: "Do you want the red cup or
the blue one?";
- Clear and reasonable limits;
- Opportunities to use large muscles in the arms and legs;
- Opportunities to use small muscles to manipulate small objects, such
as puzzles and stackable toys;
- Activities that allow them to touch, taste, smell, hear and see new
- Chances to learn about "cause and effect"-that things they do cause
other things to happen (for example, stacking blocks too high will cause
the blocks to fall);
- Opportunities to develop and practice their language skills;
- Opportunities to play with and learn about alphabet letters and
- Opportunities to learn about books and print.
2- to 3-year-old children require opportunities to
- Develop hand coordination (for example, by holding crayons and
pencils, putting together puzzles or stringing large beads);
- Do more things for themselves, such as dressing themselves;
- Talk, sing and develop their language skills;
- Play with other children and develop their social skills;
- Try out different ways to move their bodies;
- Learn more about printed language and books and how they work;
- Do things to build vocabulary and knowledge and to learn more about
the world, such as taking walks and visiting libraries, museums,
restaurants, parks and zoos.
Shop Till You Drop
Shopping for groceries is just one of many daily routines that you can use
to help your child learn. Shopping is especially good for teaching your
child new words and for introducing him to new people and places.
What You Need
A grocery shopping list
What to Do
- Pick a time when neither you nor your child is hungry or tired.
- At the grocery store, put your child in the grocery cart so that he
faces you. Take your time as you walk up and down the aisles.
- Let your child feel the items that you buy-a cold carton of milk, for
example or the skin of an orange. Talk to your child about the items: "The
skin of the orange is rough and bumpy. Here, you feel it."
- Be sure to name the objects that you see on shelves and talk about
what you are seeing and doing: "First, we're going to buy some cereal.
See, it's in a big red and blue box. Listen to the great noise it makes
when I shake the box. Can you shake the box? Now we're going to pay for
the groceries. We'll put them on the counter while I get out the money.
The cashier will tell us how much we have to pay."
- Encourage your child to practice saying "hi" and "bye-bye" to clerks
and other shoppers.
- Leave for home before your child gets tired or grumpy.
Puppets are fascinating to children. They know that puppets are not alive,
yet they often listen to and talk with them as if they were real.
What You Need
- An old, clean sock
- Buttons (larger than 1 inch in diameter to prevent swallowing)
- Needle and thread
- Red fabric
- An old glove
- Felt-tipped pens
What to Do
- To make puppets:
- Sock puppet: Use an old, clean sock. On the toe-end of the sock, sew
on buttons for eyes and nose. Paste or sew on a piece of red fabric for
the mouth. Put a bow made from ribbon at the neck.
- Finger puppets: Cut off the fingers of an old glove. Draw faces on
the ends of the fingers with felt-tipped pens. Glue on yarn for hair.
- Things to do with puppets:
- Have the puppet talk to your child: "Hello. My name is Tanya. What's
yours? Kaylee. That's a pretty name. What a great T-shirt you have on,
Kaylee! I like the rabbit on the front of your T-shirt." Or have the
puppet sing a simple song. Use a special voice for the puppet.
- Encourage your child to talk to the puppet, answering its questions
and asking questions of her own.
- Put finger puppets on your child's hand to give him practice moving
his fingers one at a time.
- The next time you want your child to help you clean up, have the
puppet make the request: "Hello, Max. Let's put these crayons back in
the box and these toys back on the shelves. Can you get the ball for
Toddlers love to explore spaces and to climb over, through and into things.
What You Need
- Stuffed animal or toy
- Large cardboard boxes
- A large sheet
- A soft ball
- A large plastic laundry basket
What to Do
- Pillow jump. Give your child several pillows to jump
into. (Toddlers usually figure out how to do this on their own.)
- Box car.Give your child a large cardboard box to push
around the room. He may want to take his stuffed animal or toy for a ride
in it. If the box isn't too high-you'll most likely find your toddler in
the box as well.
- Basketball. Sit about 3 feet away from your child and
hold out a large plastic laundry basket. Let her try throwing a large,
soft ball into the basket.
- Table tent. Cover a table with a sheet that's big
enough to reach the floor on all sides. This makes a great playhouse
that's particularly good for a rainy day.
- Jingle bells. Sew bells onto elastic that will fit
comfortably around your child's ankles. Then watch (and listen) as he
moves about or jumps up and down.
As you do an activity, talk, talk, talk with your child about what the
two of you are doing!
Music is a way to communicate that all children understand. It's not
necessary for them to follow the words to a song; it makes them happy just
to hear the comfort in your voice or on the recording or to dance to a peppy
What You Need
Noise makers (rattles, a can filled with beans or buttons, empty toilet
paper rolls, pots, pans, plastic bowls)
What to Do
- Have your toddler try banging a wooden spoon on pots, pans or plastic
bowls; shaking a large rattle or shaking a securely closed plastic
container filled with beans, buttons or other noisy items; and blowing
through toilet-paper or paper-towel rolls.
- Sing or play recordings of nursery rhymes. Have your toddler
participate actively. Even if he can't recite the words, he can imitate
your hand movements, clap or hum along.
- As your child becomes more physically coordinated, encourage her to
move to the music. She can twirl, spin, jump up and down, tiptoe or sway.
- Find recordings of all kinds of music for your child to listen to.
Help her learn to clap out rhythms, to move to both slow and fast music
and to listen carefully for special sounds in the music.
Here are a few tips to get your child to sing:
- Sing yourself. Sing fairly slowly so that your child can join in.
- Start with simple chanting. Pick a simple melody, such as "Mary Had a
Little Lamb," and sing, "la, la, la." Add the words later.
- Make singing a natural part of your daily routine-let your child hear
you sing as you work around the house or sing along with songs on the
radio or TV or with your own CDs or recordings. Encourage him to join in.
Young children love to play with dough. And no wonder! They can squish and
pound it and form it into fascinating shapes. Helping to make play dough
lets children learn about measuring and learn and use new words.
What You Need
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Food extracts, such as almond, vanilla, lemon or peppermint
Objects to stick in the dough, such as Popsicle sticks and straws
Objects to pound with, such as a toy mallet
Objects to make impressions with, such as jar lids, cookie cutters and
What to Do
- To make play dough:
- Add the food coloring to the water. Then mix all of the ingredients
together in a pan.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring until it forms a soft ball.
- Let the mixture cool. Knead slightly. Add food extracts to different
chunks of the dough to make different smells.
- Talk with your child about what you are doing as you make the dough.
Let your toddler or preschooler help you with measuring and adding
- Let your child handle some dough while it is still slightly warm and
some when it has cooled off to teach him about temperatures.
- Give some of the dough to your toddler or preschooler so she can
pound it, stick things in it, make impressions in it and make her own
animals, houses and people from it.
Read to Me!
The single most important way for children to develop the knowledge they
need to become successful readers later on is for you to read aloud to them
often-beginning when they are babies.
What You Need
- Board books, predictable books and books that label and name concepts
(such as colors, numbers, shapes)
- A children's dictionary (preferably a sturdy one)
- Paper, pencils, crayons, markers
What to Do
- From the time your child is born, make reading aloud to your child a
part of your daily routine. Pick a quiet time, such as just before you put
him to bed. This will give him a chance to rest between play and sleep. If
you can, read with him in your lap or snuggled next to you so that he
feels close and safe. As he gets older, he may need to move around some as
you read to him.
If he gets tired or restless, stop reading. Make reading aloud a quiet and
comfortable time that your child looks forward to.
- Try to read to your child every day. At first, read for no more than a
few minutes at a time, several times a day. As your child grows older, you
should be able to tell if she wants you to read for longer periods. Don't
be discouraged if you have to skip a day or don't always keep to your
schedule. Just get back to your daily routine as soon as you can. Most of
all, make sure that reading stays fun for both of you!
- Give your baby sturdy board books to look at, touch and hold. Allow
him to turn the pages, look through the holes or lift the flaps. As your
child grows older, have books on shelves or in baskets that are at his
level. Encourage him to look through the books and talk about them. He may
talk about the pictures and he may "pretend" to read a book that he has
heard many times.
- For a late toddler or early preschooler, use reading aloud to help him
learn about books and print. As you read aloud, stop now and then and
point to letters and words; then point to the pictures they stand for.
Your child will begin to understand that the letters form words and that
words name pictures. He will also start to learn that each letter has its
own sound-one of the most important things your child can know when
learning to read.
- As you read, talk with your child. Encourage her to ask questions and
to talk about the story. Ask her to predict what will come next. Point to
things in books that she can relate to in her own life: "Look at the
picture of the penguin. Do you remember the penguin we saw at the zoo?"
- Reread favorite books. Your child will probably ask you to read
favorite books over and over. Even though you may become tired of the same
books, he will enjoy and continue to learn
from hearing them read again
- Read "predictable" books to your child. Predictable books are books
with words or actions that appear over and over. These books help children
to predict or tell what happens next.
As you read, encourage your child to listen for and say repeating words
and phrases, such as names for colors, numbers, letters, animals, objects
and daily life activities. Your child will learn the repeated words or
phrase and have fun joining in with you each time they show up in the
story. Pretty soon, she will join in before you tell her.
- Be enthusiastic about reading. Read the story with expression. Make it
more interesting by talking as the characters would talk, making sound
effects and using facial expressions and gestures.
- Buy a children's dictionary-if possible, one that has pictures next to
the words. Then start the "let's look it up" habit.
- Make writing materials such as crayons, pencils and paper available.
- Visit the library often. Begin making weekly trips to the library when
your child is very young. See that your child gets his own library card as
soon as possible. Many libraries issue cards to children as soon as they
can print their names (you'll also have to sign for your child).
- Show your child that you read, too. When you take your child to the
library, check out a book for yourself. Then set a good example by letting
your child see you reading for yourself. Ask your child to get one of her
books and sit with you as you read your book, magazine or newspaper. Don't
worry if you feel uncomfortable with your own reading ability. It's the
reading that counts. When your child sees that reading is important to
you, she may decide that it is important to her, too.
- If you are uncomfortable with your reading ability, look for family or
adult reading programs in your community. Your librarian can help you
locate such programs. Friends and relatives also can read to your child
and volunteers are available in many communities to do the same.