- Colors: Point out colors in nature. Toddlers love to be outside and explore the natural world, so show them real colors in flora and fauna. Talk to them about colors that have personal meaning to them: the color of your eyes, the color of our car, the color of our house, the color of your new shoes, the color of your toy trains. Let them touch, taste & experiment with colors through art and food.
- Counting: Understand that for toddlers, counting is not very relevant. There is little motivation or reward to actually count anything. The best things to focus on with regard to numbers & counting for little ones are: a) understanding one or more than one and b) counting with 1:1 correspondence a very few meaningful objects. For example, count their fingers and toes, or ask them to get their shoes for an outing and then count each shoe as they retrieve it. Saying "12345678910" has as much connection to their future math skills as singing the alphabet song does to their future literacy (as in, very little). It is not much more than a fun pony trick for a toddler, so focus more on big picture concepts like more/less, a lot/a little, one/more than one.
- Shapes: Look for shapes all around the household and neighborhood - cookware, furniture, mirrors, street signs, jewelry. Use descriptive language when speaking and include shape adjectives: "Can you hand me the square pan?" or "Do you like Mommy's heart necklace?" or "Here is a star sticker for you!"
- Letters: ABC books are great for learning about letters because they involve bonding time and usually include examples the sounds of the letters, but if your little one isn't the type to sit and read for long periods, don't worry. You can use environmental print to create repeated exposures and opportunities to name and discuss letters.
Remember to always keep the learning relevant. The first letters that children often learn are those in their own name. Why? Because their own name is so important to them. Likewise, they will easily learn any of the above basics that you can connect to them, their family or friends and their world.
Here are some great books for teaching about colors, counting, shapes, & letters, as well as a couple about opposites that will appeal to young children: