In this Pinnable world of adorable toddler activities (which we happen to love, by the way!) it is sometimes easy to forget that learning takes place all day long whether you plan for it or not! I was clearly reminded of this as we traveled over the holidays. Obviously, I didn’t have any formal learning activities planned during this time of fun and family (at Disney World!), but I was struck by just how much learning was taking place.
Here are a few things that I noticed my toddler was learning during our time away. Anything that seems like an actual “activity” or game was created on the spot out of sheer desperation of trying to occupy a toddler without my usual tools of the trade! Hopefully these will encourage you to notice all the fascinating things your toddler is learning everyday – whether they are intentional or not!
Colors – While driving down the interstate, my daughter became fascinated by the cars that passed us (okay, that we passed…) on the road. I started calling out the colors and type of vehicles as we drove by – “here comes a blue truck!” – which apparently is much more exciting than I would have ever anticipated. After a few minutes of this game we branched out to “can you see a red car?” style entertainment as she would point out the vehicles herself. This killed a good 15 minutes of road time!
Animals and Animal Sounds – Some of this was from exploring the various theme parks we visited, but a lot of it just came from singing countless verses of “Old MacDonald” or pointing out animals in our books (or in Beauty and the Beast for the 700th time in 200 miles). By the end of the trip she knew several new animals and their sounds.
Fine Motor Skills – As a last ditch attempt to keep her happy in her stroller as we waded through the multitudes at the parts, we let her play with an extra fastener on her stroller. She learned how to “click” the fastener (though fortunately not unclick) during our trek through the park. We would unclick it for her and she’d be right back at it. She got faster and faster as the day wore on.
Prepositions – Up and down, on and off, in and out – we said these things all day long! In your carseat, shoes on your feet, etc. She already knew some of these concepts, but they became a game when we needed them to. When playing in a hotel room got less than exciting, we would play the “up and down” game where she raised her hands when we said up and touched the floor when we said down. Super simple, no work on our part, but a huge hit with a toddler who needed some movement in a small space. Opening and closing doors was also pretty exciting.
Transportation – We got to experience several different types of transportation that she doesn’t see in everyday life while we were traveling. She pointed out trains, airplanes, boats, and trucks that don’t usually pass by our front door. In the parks we got to ride some trains and “boats,” which she loved. (I’m pretty sure the parking lot tram was the highlight of her trip.)
Weather Concepts – Obviously my child has seen rain before, but when we are home, we try to avoid going out in it at all costs. When it started pouring in the Animal Kingdom, however, she got to experience rain in a new way and was fascinated! She put her hands out and kept saying “rain” over and over with a huge smile on her face. It was a new sensory experience for her for sure. We also talked about it being cold or hot and what clothes we needed in those situations.
New Ideas – After several days of watching us enter the hotel room, Sophie started unloading all of the cards from my mom’s wallet. She would take each one, one at a time, up to the hotel room door handle and hold it up. Then she would try the knob. She had figured out that each time we came to the door, we held up the key card before we opened the door. This one kind of floored me, to be honest. I was reminded of just how much she is watching every little thing we do! How humbling and kind of terrifying at the same time!
Patience. For both parents and toddler! – This was a lesson that was certainly not mastered by any of us, but we were provided with lots of opportunities for practice. My daughter learned the word “wait” as a result of this trip. Although she was certainly not as intrigued by these learning experiences as the others, it was an important lesson to have!
One of these waiting experiences resulted in my discovering a new restaurant activity in an attempt to squelch a tantrum. While sitting at a Cracker Barrel, Sophie’s patience had all but disappeared. I grabbed the container of sugar packets sitting on the table and started asking her to find a pink, yellow, or blue one. Then we sorted the packets by color. Then we took them in and out of the container. Those blessed sugar packets bought us the remaining ten minutes until our food arrived, and were great practice of all the things we usually plan to do at home.
While I enjoy planning learning opportunities for my toddler, it is so encouraging to be reminded that learning is everywhere – especially at this young and curious age!
Written by Alicia