Little Ajit, who was all of 19 months, was enjoying beating on his toy drums loudly and indiscriminately, inside the house. Nita, his mother could not stand the loud noise and shouted for him to stop the racket. When the noise did not stop, she started running towards her son. But halfway there, she stopped in her tracks! “Let children explore the world around them, with their senses. Be patient, and guide them through their exploratory adventures. They will turn out to be smart kids.” Nita had stopped running as she had recalled the words of her neighbour, who was a nursery school teacher. The latter had given her lots of ideas for dealing with such situations. Smiling to herself, Nita walked up to Ajit and started clapping her hands with a slow rhythmic beat. Ajit dropped his drum sticks in fear. But, his mother was smiling at him and urging him to beat his drums softly, to the rhythm of “one- two”, “one- two”, of her claps. “Come on, shall we try Ajit? ” she continued as her son picked up the drums sticks he had dropped earlier and tried to beat the drum slowly and softly.
Toddlers between 18 to 28 months need motor activities in order to help promote their exploring, and to interact with the world around them. This requires thinking perception and behavioural reactions. In other words, cognitive development is crucial to children’s ability to understand, interpret and relate to the environment. In order to achieve these goals, it is essential to have cognitive skills, which represent basic mental abilities, such as learning and studying, memory, reasoning, observation and comparing, thinking and language skills, among a host of many other skills.
Toddlers need to be exposed to various types of stimuli, involving all of the senses, so that their cognitive skills may be enhanced and then developed to the next level. If these stimuli are in the form of toys, games and play activities, children enjoy them as learning experiences.
Helpful parent behaviours in promoting cognitive skills of toddlers
It is important for parents to imbibe the following behaviours if they wish to make the learning of cognitive skills of toddlers, a meaningful experience.
@ Be prepared to use the everyday environment and experiences in a play way method for the learning experiences. Toddlers feel safe and relaxed in a non- threatening environment, that promotes a conducive atmosphere to learning.
@ Be patient with the toddler, especially as the he learns through the trial and error method until he masters the skill/ task. One of the ways is for you to lead by demonstration. It is imperative for a parent to wait before offering to help and let the child try the task on his own, even though may make some initial mistakes. A little bit of guidance will always set things right.
Such an attitude will promote your child’s self- belief and thereby pride in his final accomplishment.
@ Introduce age appropriate toys.
: Large puzzles, pull along toys and large picture books will help your child sit attentively at one place for playing, if he has not yet learnt to walk.
: Big beads, large papers and thick crayons will work well with your toddler as he has yet to develop his finer muscle skills and eye hand co-ordination.
: Select age appropriate toys in order to assimilate the guided learning you will offer.
@ Provide a child friendly environment to your child.
: Be supportive and nurturing and offer a helping hand when he requires it.
: Consider the pace and level of your child before giving him activities and play, so that advanced levels may be achieved with minimum frustration and failure.
: Choose the right time and place for your toddler’s sessions, so that it is easier for you to avoid undue interruptions.
: The play area should be uncluttered but with enough materials provided for extended practice if necessary.
: The toy/play materials should be hygienic, safe, colourful and should be rotated/changed from time to time to introduce novelty. Well prepared home- made play materials can be good substitutes for expensive toys.