Dear Diary,

As a newly minted second-time mother and Title 1 middle school educator, I am always thinking about ways to expose my children to as many opportunities as early as possible. I acknowledge that many of these opportunities must start at home with my biological students as mami and teacher.

One of my earliest memories of my own educator mother is being five years old and attending her undergraduate Music Theory night class regularly. I didn’t understand everything that was happening but was enthralled by the environment and captivated by the discourse between the professor and students. Though I was fortunate to attend part-time preschool at three- years-old, I learned much more outside of those four walls at home and in the world around me, because my mom made every day a learning experience.

Here are some suggestions for a parent, a child’s first teacher, on how to jumpstart your toddler’s education.


I remember watching my mother play Jeopardy! as a nightly couch contestant and getting many of the answers correct and asking a million and one questions as my grandfather religiously read the entire newspaper over a cup of coffee each morning. I inherited this thirst for knowledge and enjoyed walking to the local library every day after school. I checked out books on topics never mentioned in school and CDs to whet my appetite for country music.

A few ways to model and encourage learning:

  • Read as your child reads. Discuss what each of you has read.
  • Play (or create) games that help build your child’s recall, comprehension and analytical skills.

o   Recall

  • Similar to the memory card games, place objects (a mix of familiar and new) in front of your child, discuss the objects, hide them and ask them to recall the objects and sensory details about each thing. Once they have recalled correctly, bring the object back into view.
  • Ask your child to recall information about your neighborhood by drawing or painting a picture. This also develops situational awareness!

o   Comprehension

  • After reading a book or listening to a song, ask your child to explain the storyline to you. If they are having difficulty, try asking them the five W (who, what, when, where, and why) questions as a starting point.

o   Analytical

  • When introducing a new toy or concept, allow your child to play before showing them how it works. A shape sorting cube toy is one that my son figured out without being shown how it worked.
  • After routines have been developed, encourage your child to talk herself through the routine. This could work for bath time, preparing meals and getting dressed. My son loves to remind me that milk should be included in his cereal!


This was my mom’s standard response to my complaints of boredom and the one tenant for our family readiness plan. Everyone in the family always had a book with them in case there was traffic, or we encountered another unexpected delay.

A few suggestions to increase your child’s exposure to daily reading:

  • Take trips to the bookstore and/or the library to find the classic titles cherished by generations or new ones to add to a family’s treasured reading list. Most libraries have story times for little ones.
  • Read everything from license plates, street signs, posters, newspapers and magazines in addition to books.
  • If you want to build your home library, depending on where you live, your child (birth – age five) can receive free books every month through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.


Growing up, my mom made everything an adventure. A mundane trip to the grocery store became a scavenger hunt while a stroll down the street became a nature walk. No matter how much time you have, make time to explore with your child. Exploring can help your child gain tremendous amounts of language and knowledge by discussing both familiar and new people, places, and things. This is an easy way to reinforce awareness, names, colors, shapes, and relationships.

Questions to ask your child as you explore:

  • What do you see? What don’t you see (that may usually be there)?
  • What do you hear, smell, etc?
  • What color is (insert object)?
  • Who works here? (Grocery store, library, etc)

Hey DFTM moms–How are you fostering a love of learning for your little ones? 

About The Author

Kerrin Meriwether
Teachable Moments Mom/Senior Editor

Kerrin is married mom raising a 2 1/2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter in Clarksburg, Maryland. he writes from an educator's perspective about life's teachable moments for young children. She loves being a mom, because she enjoys seeing life through her little ones' eyes. When not writing for DFTM, Kerrin teaches English Language Arts to middle school ESOL students and manages a local tutoring company, Believe in Yourself Tutoring.

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