Where & When Should I Start?

where and when should I start

“My child is 12-18 months, where and when 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 

Try a Matching Activity 

  • Match concrete objects – Use blocks, characters, stickers, animals, etc.
  • Printable Matching Games – “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!”
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.”

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!
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  • Reply Annette W.

    My son is now 18…or is it 19 months. Like his sister, up till now we have only pointed out colors and shapes naturally…not in teaching times. In the next few months I will probably begin to do some painting with him and more purposeful play. But for now, we just play.

    I like that you said to just match colors…I think that’s a great way to start.

    Great post…really, I think the important thing is that we are thinking about teaching our children, and these are some great ways to get started!

    May 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm
  • Reply Jen @ lil Mop Top

    great ideas!! thanks for sharing!

    May 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    Definitely great ideas….I will have to pass them on to some of my mom friends!

    May 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm
  • Reply Christine

    These are great ideas, I will definitely start using them with C…I’ve been wondering what I should do with him since he is 17 months now. Thanks!

    May 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm
  • Reply LisaDay

    Thank you. I am always wondering what do do as well for this age group. Thank you for the ideas.


    May 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm
  • Reply The Activity Mom

    I agree, children learn the most through play!!Can’t wait to see some of those paintings! =)

    May 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm
  • Reply The Activity Mom

    Dear Readers,
    I knew this post would either be loved or hated.

    By posting these suggestions, I’m not at all implying that these types of activities HAVE to be done with your child!

    I just wanted to offer some suggestions for those parents that often write me and would like to try some things but aren’t sure where to start.

    If anyone has more questions after reading this post or would like help brainstorming activities that target a specific skill, please feel free to email me! I’m always happy to help.


    May 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm
  • Reply April

    I think that this a great post! Especially how you pointed out the modeling and talking. I agree that you shouldn’t pressure your children, but there is no pressure involved when a parent is just talking about the things that he/she is doing and seeing. And they really do pick up a lot that way! And actually I started singing the abcs and labeling stuff when my daughter was still a cross-eyed newborn :). I’m not that big on printables (although I use them occasionally) but that’s mostly because I hate using ink for something that might get used a couple times. Great tips for any moms.

    May 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm
  • Reply JDaniel4's Mom

    What a great post! I remember having to develop a talk curriculum in graduate school. You listed many on the things that would need to be in one.

    May 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm
  • Reply Love and Lollipops


    Thank you for this post! I have a 21 month old and I try to stimulate him as much as possible, but I also pay attention to whether he is interested in an activity or not and if not, I put it away for awhile. No pressure at this stage, just fun.

    I LOVE your blog by the way!! You have fantastic ideas! I have added you to my blogroll. I hope you will pop by and come and visit some time.

    Kindest Regards,

    May 11, 2010 at 7:34 pm
  • Reply Michelle Willow

    Excellent post! Love the ideas and you’re right – it’s never too early to start! (I’ve shared your post on our FB page: Thank you for ideas! Many will find them useful!

    May 11, 2010 at 9:42 pm
  • Reply Cook Clean Craft

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! This post has come at just the right time. I’ve been looking for activities where I can be more interactive with my 16 month old. He loves shape sorter toys, and I think this kind of thing is just what we both need. Thanks again!

    May 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm
  • Reply Shonda

    I need to do that! My son is 17 months old. He can identify things, but I don’t know about matching.

    May 14, 2010 at 2:54 am
  • Reply Jen @ lil Mop Top

    I have been using the bear cards with John John and he loves them! It reminded me of when he would play in my closet when he was about a year old and was able to pull out a pair of matching shoes all on his own. That was quite impressive to me since I usually just have a HUGE messy pile of shoes. Maybe that will be our next activity- matching up my shoes so I can put them away neatly. haha! 🙂

    May 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm
  • Reply The Mom I Want To Be

    Great ideas and suggestions, Thanks!

    June 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm
  • Reply Annette W.

    Guess what!? I am finally going to start “working” with E on a regular basis once September comes. He is much more willing now, and definitely interested. I loved the printables you suggested. They are more appropriate for us than some others I’ve seen. Thanks again!

    August 22, 2010 at 12:36 am
  • Reply Little Mister's Mum

    Thanks for your ideas! I know the ideas of where it start, but the HOW and WITH WHAT is where I get stuck! Call it a lack of imagination 🙂
    Love that people like yourself, who DO have great ideas and imagination, are so willing to share 🙂
    Thanks so much

    September 19, 2011 at 2:43 am
  • Reply joliluja

    Love your blog! I do so much- it’s on my blogroll! What a blessing you are!

    October 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm
  • Reply shani

    Thanks for the great ideas


    November 1, 2011 at 10:44 am
  • Reply Jazzy68

    i am in love with your blog…soooo much information! I cant stand it! My brain is overloading..i just hope i remember 1/2 this stuff! lol so creative,im totally not. Hola from Houston! 😉 a new fan.

    March 1, 2012 at 5:38 am
  • Reply Enrichment Class for Kids

    This is really a great tip. And the other ideas are magnificent. Is there a chance that at younger age they can start identifying shapes and able to match objects though? Like, let’s say 12 months? And how do you prevent them from putting everything into their mouth when you try to let them match those objects up? I always got a problem with that.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:31 am
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