Right now, my main focus is helping my toddler love to learn. It's important to me to find activities for him that are both educational and fun. And they need to be fun for both of us. I don't want it to feel like a chore to be doing these things with him.
Most of the everyday things that we do with our children are teaching them things anyway. My son loves to "help" with dishes, so while I wash on one side of the sink, he gets to practice pouring and stirring on the other side. He's still at the age where pretty much everything he does is a learning experience, but I wanted something more - something to keep us focused on learning.
Here are a few resources that I've come across.
One site, in particular, that I love is Fisher Price. Did you know that they have a Games and Activities section on their website and that there are activities geared towards infants and toddlers too!
They have games that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can play online and even coloring pages you can print. One of my son's favorite games is the Infants ABC Zoo game. This particular game lets you hear and see different animals when you push a button on the keyboard. We like the infant version a little better because all he has to do is push a button and it will make the sound of the next animal. The toddler version is great too, but the animal you see and hear is based on the key that you push. So if you push "A" you hear about an alligator. Right now he's not so focused on picking a button to hear a certain animal - he just loves to push the buttons! They've got lots of other great online games too.
Besides the online games, they have a section called Play and Learn Family Activities which has ideas for learning activities you can do with your child. You're able to pick the age of your child (Birth to 6 years) and they give you a list of activities you can do. You can also click on each activity to get an explanation.
How cool is that? And it's all free!!!
ToddlerToddler.com has some great ideas for learning activities you can do with your toddler. They also talk about other topics too, like potty training and discipline, which is helpful.
Their activities section has ideas for learning ABC's and 123's and Shapes & Colors, different Games you can try, Printout pages for coloring time, Rainy Day and Holiday ideas, and ideas for Art & Craft time.
Education-Games-for-Kids.com also has a lot of online learning activities and ideas for offline games for children from newborn to about age 12. I really enjoyed the ideas they had for Toddler Games. Most of their ideas can be done with things we already have around the house or are easily modified to work with what you have.
Of course, this site has a lot of advertising that you have to weed through, so be careful when you're clicking around.
PreschoolRainbow.org is geared toward young preschool- and toddler-aged children. The activities they offer are based around themes (holidays, seasons, etc).
Also check out your local craft stores. I know that Michaels Arts & Craft stores have special classes geared toward children. Some of them cost, but they also have a lot of free "Make & Take" Activities in their stores. Those usually happen around holidays. They even have a crafting program geared directly towards parents and teachers to help children enjoy crafting called The Knack. In fact, they have a lot of free Mother's Day activities coming up. You can check them out on the Events Page. Be sure to check throughout May for more Mother's Day activities (send your hubby with the kids) and June for Father's Day activities. I worked at Michaels for a while and know that these events are supposed to happen in each store, but be sure to check with your local store to confirm times and dates.
If you have a large enough Joann's Fabric and Craft store, I think they also do some events and classes. But ours doesn't do them, so I have no idea what they're like. Click here to find out what's happening at your store.
Besides online resources, you can also check out your local library for reading "groups." Most libraries have different times or activities for different ages. I'm a huge advocate for reading and we love taking trips to the library. Our library doesn't allow children under 3, but a neighboring city's library has a special toddler time. So if you're willing to drive a bit (it's only about 10 minutes for us), then make sure to check your neighboring cities.
Do you have any special websites or books that you use to facilitate learning and creativity? Leave me a comment and let me know!