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On Becoming Toddlerwise talks about curiosity with the toddler and how to direct that curiosity to achieve optimal learning. As the parent, you need to direct the learning process. You need to direct that curiosity toward optimal learning. Learning is faster when new information has meaning in relationship to a previous experience (page 34).
It helps me to think of learning as a staircase. With each step, you add knowledge. You can’t take on several steps at once; you just aren’t physically capable. After one concept is understood, you can move on and add to that concept to expand that knowledge. “Too much stimulation used to enhance a child’s intelligence pushes the child too fast and does not allow sufficient integration time. Knowledge is piling up because it has no where to go” (page 33).
On the other hand, you don’t want to just let your child set the pace either. Your child doesn’t know what step is best to start with. He might jump to the middle of the staircase, in which he has missed several steps that can help him understand that middle of this staircase. It is also an inconsistent method of learning. One day your child might like the middle. The next, the top. The next, the bottom.
Toddlers are very curious. I love this stage where everything is absolutely fascinating to them. Curiosity is the “vehicle that takes him to the classroom environment of potential learning” (page 26). As parents, we can direct this curiosity to help our child get ready to move on to the next step in the learning process. Once the child’s curiosity has brought him to the table, attention keeps him there. This is a situation where the fabulous attention span of a BW child is so great. This attention span keeps the child in place and focused, ready to learn and perfect this item that holds so much novelty for him.
I remember listening to a teach of mine describe his wife’s talent of finding those teaching moments with their five children. Those teaching moments are informal times when your child’s curiosity is peaked and he is ready to learn. As time has passed, I have found myself grasping those teaching moments. It is a skill that comes with time. I think the wise parent is also able to create moments they know will bring those teaching moments to the front.
For the older child, this might be sitting and talking with your child after school with snack you had ready. As she relates her day, you ask questions to perpetuate learning. For the toddler, this might be you pulling out some toy that will be of interest to her and helping her learn how to use it correctly and letting her explore it.
I recently found myself unexpectedly in one of those teaching moments with my children. With the Christmas season upon us, we have focused a lot of formal lessons and teachings on the story of the birth of Christ and the different characters. I believe these formal teaching times are good to have, but it is not necessarily a moment when the curiosity of your children is peaked.
Each morning, my children and I sit at the piano and sing songs. We sing songs from a children’s hymn book. We started ending each session with a Christmas song from that book. As Brayden listened to the words to the songs, his curiosity was peaked and he started asking questions about what we were singing about. I explained and taught him the same things he had been learning in our formal lessons. He has grasped those concepts and is now more interested during the formal lessons. It has been interesting to see the process and has left me looking for more ways to introduce such activities to allow for such teaching moments.
I know the task of teaching our children all we want them to learn can seem ominous. There are so many things to teach, from the alphabet to morals. Try to take things one step at a time. Your child doesn’t need to, and can’t, learn all there is to learn in a couple of years. Build the foundation of knowledge now, and add to it over the years. Take it step by step. You can do it!