Where & When Should I Start?

“My child is 12-18 months, where should I start?”
I get asked this question a lot and although each child is different, here’s what I would suggest based on my experience…..

Sometime Around 18 Months 
Start with one of these activities for One Year Olds 
or
Try a Matching Activity 

Match concrete objects – Use blocks, characters, stickers, animals, etc.
*Match with a printable – I used this BEAR MATCHING activity (I only used the single shaped bears and I started with 2 pair and then added more as he got comfortable) and asked B “Can you find this bear’s friend?” or “Can you find another bear that looks like this?”. It’s possible that the first time you say that, you will get a blank look. If that happens, match them yourself and talk the whole time about what you are thinking “Oh look here is this bear’s friend. They both have a star in the middle!”

Or give this PAINTBRUSH ACTIVITY a try (again only using single shape paintbrushes). It’s not necessary to say “Find the red one.” or “Which one matches?” at the beginning. Just use these vocabulary words in your conversations as you continue to play, you will be surprised at how fast they pick them up! Start with “Do you see another one that looks like this? You found it! You found the other red piece we needed! Great job!” or “You found it! These two match! Let’s find another one that matches. Do you see one that looks like this? You’re right, that is a green one. It matches.”  Eventually, as your child gains experience you will be able to say “Can you find another bear with a triangle in the middle? or “Find two that match.”
Printable, matching activities from childcareland.com
Working with Colors
*Have a Color Hunt and keep those items in the bins to dump out and sort again.
*Sort, Sort, Sort – Sort anything you can find by color! Beads, candy, buttons, pom poms, cereal, crayons, blocks, etc. Start by just sorting 2 different colors and work from there.

Working with Shapes
*Have a Shape Hunt (same concept as the color hunt)
*Make an outline puzzle out of shapes (cookie cutters, blocks, foam shapes, etc.)
*Sort, Sort, Sort!
My child isn’t talking yet, should I wait?
My answer to this is NO, don’t wait. B was a late talker and we were still doing these activities together. I think children pick up and absorb so much just by listening and experiencing it.
What if I don’t have a printer?
Cut images out of magazines or use things you already have around the house like blocks or playing cards.
What do I do if my child doesn’t seem interested?
Depending on the age, maybe put it away and try it again later or try to involve your child’s favorite character or interests in some way. If your child loves Sesame Street, put color squares on Sesame Street characters and then match them. If your child is into soccer, print soccer balls and make “goals” of different colors. If your child is into Barbie, match the different colored shoes.
Here are more ideas on what to do if your child doesn’t seem interested. 
Other Tips:
No matter where you start, always make it a game and have fun! If something is too hard, don’t worry (that has happened to me many times!). Just think aloud as you model it for your child, try it again, and if it is still too hard put it away and bring it out in a few weeks.
Repetition! Kids love to do things over and over again so why not let them. They learn something new each time they try it.
Talk about it! If you are working on identifying colors, point them out when you are in the car or at the store. “Oh look! This box of crackers is orange!” or “Hmmmm I’m looking for a red sign. Oh there it is.”

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to do an activity every day! Some days we don’t do any activities at all and other days we might try 3 new ones. As your child becomes more comfortable doing an activity by themselves, set it out (or a few) to give them a chance to work on it independently! This will give you time to get some Mom Activities done!