Kids are eager to figure out how things work. They’re like little scientists, constantly doing experiments, like throwing a ball on the ground to see if it will bounce, and then throwing a doll on the ground to see what it will do. They also learn to use objects as tools – like using a stick or standing on a stool to get an out-of-reach toy. And their growing memory helps them learn too, like when they imitate what they see others do, even hours or days later.
Here are a few ways you can encourage your kids’ growing thinking skills.
Offer tools for experimenting
This includes toys and objects they can shake, bang, open and close, or take apart to see how they work. Explore with water while taking a bath. Take walks and look for new objects to explore—pine cones, acorns, rocks, and leaves. At the supermarket, talk about what items are hard, soft, big, and small.
When you see them cuddling their stuffed animal, you might say: “Bear loves it when you cuddle him. Do you think he’s hungry?” Then bring out some pretend food. These kinds of activities will help build their imagination!
Encourage self-care activities
Such as combing hair, brushing teeth, or washing their face. This helps them learn how familiar objects work and solve problems like how to hold the brush.
Offer your kids objects to play with that will help them use their imaginations: dress-up clothes, animal figures, dolls, pretend food. And support their problem solving: if they’re trying to make a sandcastle but the sand won’t stick, show them how to add water but don’t make the castle for them. The more they do, the more they learn!
Let them help
They can wipe down the counter with a towel or sponge, push a broom or mop, or rake leaves. These activities give them many chances to solve problems.
Adapted from ZERO TO THREE