How to Teach Struggling Toddlers

Like many parents nowadays, my wife and I wonder (and sometimes worry) about how our child will develop academically.

When we see a stubbornness to learn words correctly, it makes us question when our two year-old son will correct it. For example, he says “melmo” instead of “spider”. He understands the word “spider”, he just refuses to say it. But made-up words are simply holdovers from before he could talk. It is something he will grow out of.

There are other words he has been adamant about saying the wrong way. Just a few weeks ago, he started to say “Mommy” on a regular basis. For months, he would only call my wife “Meemaw” despite our correcting him. But constant coaxing paid off.

We never punished him for using the wrong word, we just told him the right one to use. When toddlers are stubborn about using the proper word, making them repeat the right word many times or other browbeating tactics will only strengthen their stubbornness. You have to let them come around.

Another area our son struggled with was confusing numbers with each other. This is particularly true with similar-looking numbers like “3” and “8”. In this case, we found it helped to turn to some video assistance.

We found videos on Sesame Street’s website that dealt with individual numbers. Focusing on one number at a time really helped our son to see each number individually. We also took opportunities in the real world to find learning experiences everywhere.

One way we would do this is to find numbers when we went outside. The light poles at a nearby pack are all numbered. When we would take our son there, we would stop at each pole, let him climb up and stand on the base, and tell us what number he saw on the pole.

We found that when our son is struggling in some area of learning, it’s important not to force learning on him. Toddlers learn quickly, but they also learn organically and at their own pace. You can’t sit them down in a chair and make them focus on a blackboard.

Instead, my wife and I made learning a game for our son. He has blocks with numbers on them, books about shapes and colors, and a set of alphabet magnets that he puts on the door. We don’t bring them to him to see if he wants to do some learning today. Instead, he picks them up and plays with them when he is ready, and he learn very well at his own pace while having fun.

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