Foster experimentation. Remember that younger toddlers learn through trial and error. What may look like unfocused play is really testing how the world works. For example, dropping an object in water and observing whether it floats or sinks is testing a hypothesis. Repeatedly dropping a toy off of the high chair tray to see if it makes a loud sound helps children understand cause and effect. Provide open-ended materials that encourage experimentation, like blocks, stacking cups, dolls, or sand.
Be patient. Recognize that repetition helps toddlers learn and develop. Try to be tolerant as your toddler tries the same action over and over and over.
Encourage conversation. Talk with your children about their ideas to show interest and respect. “I see you have an idea and you are trying it out to see if it works.” They will understand more than they can say initially, but eventually, their speaking will catch up with their understanding.
Join in your child’s pretend play. If she uses a block to talk to you on your cell phone, use a block yourself in the same way. Offer materials which encourage pretend play – a child-sized grocery cart, a doll bed and blanket, or an old brief case and hat. Or you can model first using a block as a cell phone, a pine cone for food, etc.
Coming to understand how toddlers think is a fascinating process. Watch, in particular, for trial and error learning and symbolic play from your toddler, and engage with him to support the learning process.
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