Oh, What a Wonderful World: Exploring with Toddlers to Build Skills

Photo by Bo Bo / Stocksy / 1986604
Photo by Bo Bo / Stocksy

By Rachel Ward

From a vividly colored ladybug on the windowsill to a symphony playing on the radio and then to an intriguingly sweet smell emanating from the garden—two- and three-year-olds are running to and fro almost faster than we can keep up with as they dive into exploring the world!

Exhausting for us adults in desperate need of caffeine? Sure. But there’s a good reason for this speedy mad dash.

“Two- and three-year-olds are becoming more and more aware of the world around them, and as a result, their curiosity is incredibly strong,” says Taunya Banta from KinderCare’s Education team. “They’re trying in their own way to categorize everything new they encounter, which is why they’re constantly on the move.”

Here at KinderCare, we recognize the strong appeal that the world’s beauty and wonders hold for children—and we use that to our advantage to help kids not only explore, but also to build valuable skill sets.

One of our favorite ways to do that is to take our Discovery Preschool classes out to our centers’ outdoor area to experience all those great sights, smells, and sensations firsthand (and we even throw a little artistic expression into the mix).

We Meld Exploration Activities with Focus Activities for Toddlers—the Perfect Combo of Fun and Learning

As they walk around the area, teachers call children’s attention to sensory input—from a bird’s song to the feeling of the wind on their faces to the colors they see on the trees—and they talk ALL about it!

Those conversations are building kids’ vocabulary, giving them the words to describe all those mesmerizing objects and sensations they’re experiencing. But it’s also building an even larger skill set that can get overlooked.

“Children’s teachers are encouraging them to focus on one thing at a time, whether it’s the chill of the wind or the trills of a bird’s song—and practicing that ability to maintain attention is a valuable executive-function skill,” explains Banta.

We’re introducing the world’s wonders to kids one day at a time here at KinderCare, but there are a lot of fun ways you can introduce your child to things that we just can’t (all while building vocabulary and attention span). Check out some of our tips below!

Big, Bold, and Totally New: 3 Ideas to Show Toddlers More of the World

Photo by Ali Deck / Stocksy / 1246848
Photo by Ali Deck / Stocksy

1. Visit the zoo for a wildly good time

Seeing penguins, lions, and elephants in real life are completely different than seeing them in storybooks! Talk with your child about the animals they see to keep them focused—what colors are they? How tall do they think they are? Which is their favorite?

2. Explore the creative side at an art museum

Art museums can hold a lot of fascination for young children! Call your child’s attention to the colors and shapes in paintings or drawings that they take a closer look at (don’t force it—just watch and see what naturally draws them in). Talk about the subject matter, too: Is it a mountain or a lake? A cat or a bird?

3. Take a hike together and connect with nature

Hiking with a two- or three-year-old may seem daunting, but it’s a great learning experience in more ways than one (if you’re still nervous, check out our tips for hiking with tots). From exploring different kinds of leaves and flowers to catching a glimpse of owls or rabbits, there’s a lot for you and your child to find and discuss!

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