Planning a few activities for A-

Registration opens this week for City of Toronto recreation programs, so I’ve been thinking about what to experiment with next. For this phase (2-3 years old), A- will probably be focusing on learning about:

  • independence
  • movement
  • language and music
  • emotions
  • socialization
  • the world around us

What have I learned from the classes we’ve taken and the memberships we have?

I was not keen on the Recreation Discovery with Caregiver class that we signed up for during the fall term, since it was hard to wake up A- in the morning and the class didn’t offer much beyond what we could get at drop-in centres.

Between a long trip to the Philippines and a late-waking A-, we missed many sessions of the Smart Start music classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Even though she mostly clung to me during the sessions that we did manage to attend, she somehow absorbed plenty from the class. At home, she’s been singing, dancing, galloping, marching, banging rhythm sticks together, playing on the piano and the xylophone, blowing into the recorder, tapping on the table, and even arranging chairs for sitting on – “Just like music class,” she exclaims. I think it’s worth a significant premium over city music classes or the 15-minute circle times at free drop-ins, considering A- gets exposed to well-maintained instruments and a highly skilled music teacher. I’ve picked up more melodic variants of the nursery rhymes I learned elsewhere, learned a few Canadian folk songs, and grown more comfortable with singing. If I can find a summer session in the afternoon, I might consider that.

For spring, I signed A- up for gymnastics classes through the City of Toronto. She’s gotten a lot more active, and I think it might be nice to explore what she can do with more facilities. I hope there’ll be a large padded mat and a few activities for balance and coordination. Even if she ends up being mostly reserved during class, I know she’ll pick up a lot by observing the teacher and the other kids, and I can set up things at home so that she can practice. The age range for the class is pretty big (2 – 5 years old), so I hope there’ll be other toddlers, a small class, and/or a teacher good at managing such a large range.

A- likes swimming too. I think we’ll keep that pretty informal for now, since it’s easy for me to take her to various pools depending on the gaps in our week and when she wakes up. She had fun kicking while wearing a flotation device, and she’s also curious about blowing bubbles. I can probably spend the next few months bringing her to places with shallow toddler pools, and that should take care of swimming without putting too much pressure on our schedule. Besides, this way, I can invite other families along.

The city also had a few science- and engineering-type activities for little kids, but I can probably do those things on my own for now. Likewise, there are private companies that offer cooking classes for toddlers, but I can do that at home.

The High Park Nature Centre also has programs for kids this age. I’ll just start by taking her on the trails often. I’ll step up nature education when A- is about three or so, probably drawing from books like Discovering Nature with Young Children (and the rest of the Young Scientist series) and Small Wonders: Nature Education for Young Children. The nature centre has the advantage of experience and animal encounters, so we’ll look into that when she’s ready for more structure and lots of hiking.

Our Ontario Science Centre membership has definitely paid off. We go almost every week, often meeting up with Jen and E-. A- loves the pretend supermarket, the water table, the music section, and the spinning thing. I renewed that one for another two years.

I sprung for another year of the Curator’s Circle membership level for the Royal Ontario Museum. I made good use of the guest privileges last year by making it my default location for inviting people out, and maybe I’ll get to do more of that this year. A- often requests to go to the museum after music class, since it’s right next door. She’s still not keen on the drop-in centre with toys, but she likes the animal exhibits and can point to many large animals when prompted.

We went to Riverdale Farm a couple of times this year. She’s beginning to be more interested in the animals there, although she’s still wary of the sheep. (“Sheep big! Sheep noisy!”) Worth the occasional trip out even though we haven’t made it to any of the farmer demos, and easy to combine with a short walk to the Children’s Book Bank.

A- liked going to the bouldering gym, too. There’s one near us that has a small kiddie area that has a slide. It’s a three-person affair, since W- needs to hold A- up and I need to climb to the top so that I can lift her over the ledge and slide down with her. I pay for a pass for her, a pass for me, and my shoe rental, and I get to have a short workout climbing too. It’s good for her to see us trying, falling, picking ourselves up, and learning. J- goes to the same gym, so more modeling there too. We’ve gone twice. I’m up for going again when W- and J-‘s schedules permit.

Some playgrounds also have climbing features, and some even use rock-climbing holds. I remember seeing them at Regent Park and at Withrow Park. When the weather warms up, we’ll go on a tour of playgrounds.

What do I need to learn about or prepare in order to support her learning?

  • Music: I can mix in more nursery rhymes and folk songs as she gets the hang of the ones we covered before. She’s also getting interested in instruments, so it’s good to both model having fun playing and let her explore. She’s interested in dancing, so we’ll do more of that pancreas, too.
  • Language: Time to dust off those Ready for Reading recommendations and request award-winning children’s books from the library! A- loves reading, and I absorb more ideas about art and verse as I read things over and over. I’d also like to establish a steady rhythm of making books myself, too. The fridge magnets and the availability of print in everyday life encourage A-‘s interest in identifying letters, and we can continue to let her take the lead.
  • Art: This phase focuses on making marks, exploring materials, and describing actions. I can bring drawing supplies when we visit her grandmother. I can set out large pieces of drawing paper. I can present her drawing and playdough supplies attractively, and I can make them more pleasurable to use. I can model more drawing in front of her. The Trofast drawers we set up in the living room are doing a good job of organizing A-‘s Duplo collection, and A- often plays with Duplo (building towers or playing with the playground). I can review Growing Artists for ideas to take advantage of her new capabilities.
  • Toileting: I think we can redo Oh Crap potty training whenever we’re ready. No rush. A- figured out how to get through a whole diaper-free month without accidents, but our long trip got her used to wearing diapers again. It’s a bit cool, but maybe I can offer her a choice between cloth diapers or going diaperless at home, or I can do more of a conceptual nudge through books. She’s interested in being a big kid at the moment, so it might be a good time.
  • Dressing: She’s working on more fine motor skills. I might be able to get away without fancy dressing frames or toys, since she can practice with my pajamas and my shoelaces. Although if we make it to the EarlyON centre one of these days, there’s a toy with a nice big button that she could use for practice.
  • Physical activity: Lots of walking and going to playgrounds, plus the gymnastics classes I signed up for and the occasional bouldering session too. I can also encourage her to carry heavy things.
  • Independent play: This fits naturally into our household routines. I just need to keep recognizing opportunities for her to go and explore.
  • Cooking and eating: She’s getting more comfortable with a butter knife. She can cut with a serrated knife or even a pointy knife if I carefully guide her hand-over-hand. If I look up cooking class ideas for toddlers, I’ll probably find more things we can do together. It might be time to get colour-coded measuring cups like the ones my sister got for her kids. She’s okay with tongs, too, so I’ll pick up training chopsticks as well.
  • Sleep: Most toddler activities are in the morning. A- and I both seem to be night owls. It’s been nice letting her sleep in, but maybe I should take the hit, deal with a few weeks or months of slight crankiness, and move our schedules earlier. Anyway, we’ll see how things work out as she gets older. If she accepts our nudges to night-wean, that will probably change things too.

So much to learn this year. Fun fun fun! It seems to work out pretty well if I let her take the lead, and even better if I’ve prepared the opportunities and learned more about supporting her learning. This is totally not about turning her into some kind of prodigy. It’s more fun to be a kid, and it’s better for her too. I’m just doing this because I’m having a lot of fun learning with and from her. :) We’ll see what we can learn and share!