Your Toddler Tourist
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A Petting Zoo
There’s no doubt that children this age are completely fascinated with animals, and a petting zoo or a public farm gives you access to creatures of all shapes, sizes, colors, and even smells to spark your 1-year-old’s senses. Prepare your toddler for the outing ahead of time by reading one or two picture books that include the animals you might see on the visit. You should also take time to practice petting a neighbor’s dog or cat with her to show her how to do it gently and to help her feel comfortable around animals. When you get to the zoo, let your child ease into approaching the animals. If she seems anxious or afraid, don’t force it. Instead, pet the piglet or bunny yourself and give her a minute to see whether she wants to join in on the fun. While she’s touching the animal, take this opportunity to work on building cognitive and language skills by asking questions like: “What color is t he cow?” “What does a cow say?” suggests Dr. Goodwyn. You can also help her understand basic relational concepts by comparing and contrasting the size of a baby goat with bigger ones - or teach her about textures by letting her feel how a sheep’s fluffy wool is different from a horse’s mane. One reminder: Make sure you bring hand sanitizer with you to use after you and your toddler are through petting the animals. And the next time you sing “Old MacDonald” to her, incorporate all of the animals she spotted and touched into the song. It’ll remind her of the fun day you two spent together at the petting zoo or farm.
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It’s never too early to fill your little one with a sense of wonder about reading, and a library is a good place to start. Head over to the children’s section to pick out several books together. Your toddler will be much more likely to pay attention and develop his vocabulary if he has a hand in choosing what you read, says Kempskie. Try a variety of stories at first; you just might find a new subject matter that interests him - like fire trucks or ocean creatures - that you wouldn’t have discovered at home. Many local branches also offer free programs for kids of all ages, including storytime and puppet shows. Hearing books read out loud by someone other than you can make your child listen even more attentively. And doing it in a group setting will give you a chance to work on his social skills with other children. Before you leave, don’t forget to check out a couple of new books that he’ll be excited about getting his hands on when you get home. Doing this can help kick off good reading habits that will follow him into the school years and beyond.