Teaching a Toddler – Zoo Theme

Teaching a Toddler

To kick off our Teaching a Toddler series we did a Zoo theme through July.
Although we don’t stick seriously to it, our days all have a pretty similar routine and these activities fit into our afternoon after a nap. You can see more about how we structure our days here.

Prep work:
For all the activities this week we used a set of 8 pictures I made and printed out on card. I used pictures I thought looked most like the animal toys we already had.

We started the week on a very simple activity of matching the cards I made with little animal toys we already had. B spent about a minute looking at me weirdly, it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to make him sit down and concentrate on something. We usually play together but I normally just let him do his own thing the whole time so I think he was kind of confused as to why I was trying to do something so ‘serious’. I usually choose a few new words to add to his vocabulary every week and since we played matching games all week I added the word ‘same’ to show that something matched. We of course added all the new animal names too so I didn’t want to over do to it in the first week.
We expanded on the game from yesterday by adding videos from YouTube to match each animal we had on the cards. Billy loved the activity and especially hearing all the animal noises, I could definitely notice him trying some of the names of the animals out and I’m almost sure he kept saying ‘same’ every time he picked up a card. Although he still didn’t really get the activity and what the aim of it was (all the activities were about matching animal cards to animal toys).
Today’s activity was way more fun that I expected, but also not in the way that I expected. I hid all the animal toys inside a bowl of rice and pulled out the cards individually. He had to find the animal inside the bowl of rice, unfortunately the second he stuck his hands into the rice he just started flicking it everywhere. That was then all that consumed him, throwing all the rice everywhere. I stopped playing the activity and just let him enjoy the sensory experience and then we got out vacuum cleaner out and he sucked up all the rice (yay a chance to teach him to clean up when he makes a mess). He had so much more fun than I ever thought he would and did none of what I had planned. Which also made me realise that as important as it is for me to teach him, it’s also really important to just let it all go if that’s what needs to happen.
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After Wednesdays fun I thought I would make the activity a little less messy. I put all the animals into a a basket and laid all the cards on the table. I then sat on the couch and asked him to bring me an animal, he could either bring me a toy or a card. He only got a few right but he loved bringing me the toys anyway and after a little bit of practice he started saying cheetah really clearly and running around with the little cheetah toy in his hand. He was very proud of himself and we had lots of giggles about it.

To end off the week of activities I laid out all the cards in a row and filled a little toy basket we have with the animal toys we had been playing with all week. Then when he woke up from his afternoon nap we went over to the table and I let him just play with the set-up. This was a great way for me to see what he had learned from the weeks activities and it gave him a chance to use his imagination and decide what to do with the cards and toys. He didn’t try to match them at all but he did love showing me each toy and all the cards. He was also trying to say the names of the animals on the cards and kept asking me to say the names so he could repeat them.



I really enjoyed starting these activities with him, we repeated the same games all month and some days we just played with the animals or didn’t touch them at all and played outside or played with play dough instead. We are now into August as I finish writing this and I can’t believe how much B has learned from these. He can identify the animals if I ask for them, he loves to make the animals jump and is starting to do imaginative play with them. Because we do these activities in the afternoon just before I start our evening of making dinner, bath, bed etc routine, I have noticed a huge difference in his whinging and asking me to pick him up and cuddle. So I think the focused time together before I start to get really busy helps him to go off and play independently for a while. By the end of the month I also noticed how much my husband got on board with our activities and if I left the toys out he would ask B lots of questions about the toys and they would play with them heaps when he got home from work.



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