I am a member of a yahoo group where this question was recently posted. I thought I would answer it here.
"I am wondering if some of you could share the things you've done with your toddlers/preschool age children. My daughter turned 2 in June and up to this point we have never had a set "learning" time... I've just been exposing and introducing things to her as we live our daily lives...I'm discouraged with how quickly I've gone astray and have started looking into the "packaged" curriculum junk that's out there. It's just so easy to do when most everyone I know is doing the same thing. Sadly, many people I know have become focused on teaching their children things that don't need to be taught until much later - mainly because they take pride in their children being "advanced". I don't want to get caught up in that mess... but I'm finding myself drifting towards that mentality. It truly is hard to get off the conveyor belt!!!
What I'm looking for is some ideas of things you've done with your little ones between the ages of 2 and 4. Do you have a set "lesson" time every day? What do you do during that time? What should I be focusing on? "
These are wonderful ages! Your gut response of not wanting to ply your little ones with academics is spot on! I know it is hard to not do something everyone else is doing. It is our educational culture in the industrialized world. But just because institutions do something or most of your friends are doing something, does not mean that it best for your children. I want to commend you for recognizing your children's real needs.
So, what is appropriate for two and four-year-olds (or even five-year-olds) as far as their education is concerned? What should be the focus?
Your children are in what is called the Core Phase, one of the two foundational phases. You are right, academics should not be the focus at these ages. When it becomes our focus for our little children, it can shift their focus away from other things so vital for their solid development. Academics at this age can then become a distraction and distractions can actually delay developmental and even academic benchmarks.
The educational goals of Core Phase (the foundational early childhood years) are learning to discern-- right from wrong, truth from error, and good from evil. Other goals are to build character, trust, and relationships with God, family, community, learning, and their relationship to things. There is a Core phase curriculum is worship together, serve together, work together, play together (and imaginative free play), and yes, learn together! Just know learning at this phase is hands-on, in context, and I do not recommend formal lessons, workbooks, worksheets, or flash-cards.
If you have not already done so, establish routines of bedtime, meals, time for family devotions, time to explore outside, time to record in a journal with your children, time to read to your children, take field trips, enjoy these years together.
Consider - Give Your Child an EDGE in Life
This is a great time in young children's lives. Enjoy the Journey!