Ok, maybe not anything… but there are a lot of easy things you can teach toddlers with simple magnets!
Raising humans is daunting. Especially if you’ve never done it before. There are so many things to think about from nutritious foods or the possibly toxic cleaning supplies in your home. On top of that, you’re supposed to teach them things?! I am not an early childhood educator. I have no idea how to teach anyone anything unless you are an adult wanting to learn about marketing or budgeting spreadsheets.
That said – even I can do this. I found out how to teach toddlers colors, animals, and letters is with games and repetition. Read on to learn the specific way we taught our daughter animals by 12 months, colors by 17 months, and how we’re working on letters at age two, all with magnets!
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As I mentioned, I am not an early childhood educator. I don’t have any type of degree or particular expertise with young kids. I did do an advanced economics study in the importance of early childhood education in college. But I don’t actually think that qualified me for parenting.
How to teach toddlers with magnets
That said, I found that the key to our success with animals, colors, and now most letters, is on repetition and making it a game. We had a great time with magnets because they are always out and are fun to take on and off of multiple surfaces.
*Helpful tip: Many stainless refrigerators aren’t magnetic so you can’t use magnets on the front of the fridge. We used our magnets on a stainless dishwasher and a deep freezer we have in the kitchen, so there were two large and easily accessible flat surfaces to play on.
We got these Melissa and Doug wooden animal magnets before she turned a year old.
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We put them all over the dishwasher and we’d always go over and make animal sounds after dinner. I’d point out the cow and moo, or the duck and quack. After I felt like she was familiar with the sounds, I’d put three or four animals on the dishwasher and point at the cow or duck and ask what they say. She’d answer with the animal sound and was eventually able to point out “which one was the duck,” etc.
She learned the sounds very quickly (in less than a month) and after a couple of months was starting to say the names of the animals.
I think she learned quickly because we were able to go and point and touch the animals, and although there were over 25 animals in the set, we did a few at a time. Quickly she was able to point out the animals and make the sounds when the entire dishwasher was full.
We sort of stumbled onto this one (again, I have no idea when kids are supposed to learn things) when she was around 17 months. We were at my grandmother’s house and had rented a toy kitchen. GG happened to have a set of plastic cups in her cabinet she gave my daughter to play with.
The cups were many different colors so we started naming the colors when she would pull one off the stack. At first, she got the color wrong almost every time. We kept playing with the cups in the kitchen and asking about other colors when we were out and about.
By the end of the week, she was starting to get the colors correct some of the time, but I was pretty sure she’d just memorized the cups. We came home and started asking more about colors and using our animal magnets (the WHITE sheep, BLACK dog, etc.) to practice.
Again, within a month she was getting colors right almost all the time. She still has trouble with shades of colors occasionally, but she learned all the basics by around 18 months. What we applied here that we’d learned with the animals was a game and repetition.
The game came in the form of stacking cups in the kitchen and with her animals at home, and once we started learning the skill we did it every single day. No skipping and no stopping.
We didn’t move onto letters until she was 2.5. Honestly, I still don’t know when they’re supposed to learn letters. But, since we did colors and animals it was either this or numbers, and I thought the alphabet would be more valuable since she’s not doing math yet.
Based on our success with the animal magnets, I grabbed these Disney alphabet magnets off amazon.
We only opened the uppercase letters because I didn’t want to confuse her with both cases at once. I’m not going to lie, letters have been the hardest. BUT, we also haven’t been working on them every single day as we did with the animals and colors.
It’s been a couple of months with them hanging out on the freezer. Now she gets about 50% correct when we’re going through each one. She’s been able to spell her name for awhile, parroting it back to us. She also knows the letter it starts with, but sometimes gets stuck finding them in the alphabet.
Matching, Sorting & More Learning Letters
What we recently started doing was matching our animal magnets to the letter magnets as part of a new game. She’s been very successful at that. We’ll put up the fish, panda, dog, giraffe, monkey, etc. and then go through the alphabet and find the letter each animal starts with.
For some reason, she’s great at “P” for Panda, and “M” for a monkey, but has struggled with “F” for Fish. This game is a little easier for her than just picking the letters out of the long alphabet.
I’ve also tried using three or four letters as a starting point, which has also worked. However, I think the animals or working with us to spell things is more fun for her.
I’m not going to be a great resource on when your kid should be doing things. I only have experience with one. However, we’ve had a lot of success with our daughter learning quickly before age three. Pairing learning with games and a lot of repetition was key. If you have any other great tips or know how to perfect the alphabet, we’re all ears!
Now, if only long division can be done on the dishwasher….