You don't need to be a teacher or have a master's degree in education to offer your toddler an enriching day at home. Everyday activities can prepare him to eventually read, write, do math, and more. "Whether you're doing it consciously or unconsciously, every parent acts as a teacher," says Tim Seldin, president of The Montessori Foundation and author of How to Raise an Amazing Child. Follow these tips to build your toddler's skill set -- and help him develop a love of learning.
BRAIN-BOOSTING ACTIVITY: Reading Books
"One of the most effective and proven ways to build literacy is reading aloud," says Candace Lindemann, a curriculum designer and owner of Naturally Educational, a consulting firm. Do it cuddled up together in a comfy chair: "That way, your toddler will associate reading with having your positive attention, and her interest will grow," Lindemann notes. If your squirmer won't sit still for a story, no problem. To engage her more, ask simple questions about what's happening, or even change the name of the protagonist to your child's name, suggests Alice McAdam, program manager for the Parents As Teachers program at Hillside Family of Agencies, in Rochester, New York. "This may give her the feeling that she's the one having the adventure." The more you read together, the more your child will catch on to the connection between the story, the pictures, and the words on the page. Over time, you might notice that she begins to remember the sequence of a beloved book. After that, she'll realize that the squiggles on the page are symbols that have meaning, which is the first step on the road to reading, Lindemann notes.