Keep your toddler learning while at home

by | Aug 6, 2020

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Keeping your toddler occupied under lockdown conditions can be tough, especially when they can’t understand why they’re stuck at home. Educator Kerry McArthur has some suggestions to help you negotiate the difficult days.

We have all gone through a major upheaval over this period whether we work or go to school. And it’s even tougher for our children, who may not fully understand why they can’t go to school or play with their friends.

While we are understandably concerned about the safety aspects of keeping our children at home, it is equally important that we consider their social and educational needs as well. Social interaction is a little more difficult, but you can at least help to meet their educational needs while at home.

Virtual tours

Young children learn best by seeing and experiencing the topic, which is why in class we will always use concrete apparatus such as blocks, counters and pictures. At home this will be a little more difficult and time-consuming, and it eventually gets frustrating using the same things over and over again, so this is where virtual tours are helpful.

There are a host of websites that you can access to watch videos of actual experiences, such as:

  • ‒ This website introduces many different experiences centred around nature and the world around us, from deep in the ocean, to brown bears in Alaska, all the way to African animals around a waterhole. Some of these videos are live feeds, with a few of them being recorded and edited to be an immersive experience.
  • ‒ This website has pre-planned online courses for children from preschool to 12 years old. You can watch sea turtles, crafty critters or play ‘I spy’ around the aquarium.
  • – Complete “draw alongs with Brian Kesinger” or do a virtual field trip around the zoo, learning about all the different animals or join a live feed on . There are many other virtual zoo tours that you can take.


Concepts and continued learning

The first thing you need to remember is you are not the teacher. You are not there to replace school, but you are also the best resource your child has for learning. There are certain concepts that you need to keep working on. and there are simple but effective ways to do it.


  • For babies up to 18 months the best way to reinforce counting and their numbers is to do it continuously. Every time you undress them, count the socks, count their toes, count their arms and tickle them while counting all the time. Make it fun and engaging, and they will learn it without even realising it.
  • For toddlers form 18 months to three years, while rote counting (counting in order from memory) is important, it is more important that they understand what they are counting. Have them count out their puzzle pieces, the crayons or even the peas on their plate, and make it a game to see who can count the fastest. Occasionally make a purposeful mistake and encourage your child to correct you – laugh about and let them teach you how to do it.



  • Every time you pass a toy or piece of clothing tell them the colour, and let them tell you when they pass it. Also encourage them to find other objects of a similar colour: the house is an amazing toy box of colours, so let them explore.
  • Hide a toy under or inside something and let them find it. This encourages their extended thinking and problem solving while still working on colours – make it a game.


Shapes, numbers and the alphabet:

  • Practice makes perfect! Keep going.
  • Sing the alphabet song and play the ‘I spy’ game using sounds of letters.
  • Draw shapes on paper, with a whiteboard on the window, outside in the sand and in foam on a tray. There are so many ideas, and the more ideas you use, the better your child will grasp things. Remember, it is about repetition without boredom.

Some practical ideas:

  • Use bottle caps or bread tabs for something simple, otherwise use toy animals, dinosaurs, etc. You can then use the activity not just for counting, but for colours and sorting as well.
  • Draw a circle with a number in it, repeat to your child what the number is, and encourage them to select the correct number of objects and place them in the circle. Do the same with other numbers.
  • Write numbers in the bottom of cupcake holders – similar to the circle activity, but use smaller objects (watch the size with smaller babies). You can do the same activity with colour sorting.
  • Play ten-pin bowling: collect empty plastic bottles and write numbers onto the corresponding number of objects e.g. five. Also draw five circles. Have your child throw a ball at the bottles and then place them back up in order. You can use the same activity for adding simple numbers together (based on what they knocked over) or the bottles for putting objects inside to correspond to the number.
  • Use cupcake holders and write a letter of the alphabet in the bottom, and print out pictures of simple words that can then be matched to the letter. Stick to the simple sound e.g., ‘a’ and ‘apple’ or ‘c’ and ‘cat’.
  • Wrap a small square box (tissue box) in paper and on each side write a letter of the alphabet – focus on the letters you have selected for the week. On a separate piece of paper, draw or print the pictures that start with the same letter. As they roll the “dice” they will then cross off the picture that matches the letter, and as they get older you can use words instead of drawing pictures.



All of us are frustrated. We are around the same people everyday and our lives have been turned upside down. This is just as apparent in your young child, who doesn’t understand why they are feeling the way they do and they definitely don’t understand how to deal with it.

“We implicitly identify, demonstrate, and explain why our toddlers shouldn’t act a certain way by discussing and showing them the correct way,” says Jaime Gleicher, LMSW, a behavioural therapist at Harstein Psychological Services Center in New York City.

It’s also important to acknowledge how they are feeling and help them develop their emotions over this period. Allow them to be angry, but teach them how to express this positively and avoid the triggers. Allow them to be sad: hold them, love them. Finally, allow them to be scared: reassure them and provide a safe place.

Above virtual tours, colours, numbers or shapes, the most important thing you can teach your child is love and respect for themselves and for others in the home. Build self-confidence and communication through everything you do, and remember, you are not the teacher, but you are equally important in their learning.