Teaching Basic Concepts Through Play

Teaching basic concepts little ones can seem like a very daunting task. Often times, it is hard to know how to approach early childhood concepts that we adults have known since we were tiny. For us, they are second nature but, for our children, these are brand. they are brand new. I am here to tell you that teaching basic concepts to your child can be made so much easier through one thing: playtime.

Playtime will take teaching basic concepts and make it seem like you are not teaching at all. Your child will never know that you have a method of teaching them early childhood concepts; they will simply think they are playing with their parent.

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When Can I Start Teaching Basic Concepts?

Believe it or not, you can start teaching basic concepts from birth. When you are reading to your infant, you can point out colors and shapes within their books. Not only can you point out colors and shapes but you can also count items on pages.

If you come across animals you can name the animal and make its noise. Your child may not be old enough to verbalize things with you but that doesn’t mean that they cannot take in the information being given to them. They will slowly start to embrace these early childhood concepts from the earliest of ages. If you make it a point to start doing these things from birth, it will be second nature by the time your child is a toddler and ready to verbalize them with you.

Teaching Colors

Colors are an easy place to start in regards to early childhood concepts. While your child is playing, take the time to point out the colors of the toys they are playing with. So many of your child’s toys are colored with primary colors (red, blue, and yellow). Another common color for children’s toys is green. Starting with these simple colors is a good jumping point.

Playtime isn’t the only time to point out colors. Meal times (and snack times) are a great time to work on teaching colors as well. When planning your meals (and snacks), plan several different colors. When the plate is served to your child, ask them what colors they see on their plate. This is another simple way to reinforce the colors you have been working on and, learn new ones.

Teaching Numbers

Teaching your child numbers is pretty fun as well. The items that are available to count are endless. When your child brings you toys, you can count them one by one. The easiest way for your child to learn how to count is repetition. Taking every possible chance you have to count things with them and they will quickly learn the numerical order. Teaching basic concepts of numbers will set a firm foundation to build on when your child is older.

Teaching Shapes

Trying to teach your child shapes can seem a bit harder. Many toys are circles, squares and triangles. If you want to work beyond those shapes and you don’t have any other shapes at home, you can cut the shapes out of colored construction paper.

I have found that the easiest way to teach shapes is to make a game out of them.

Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Have your child jump on the shapes
  • Tape the shapes around the room and have your child run to find them
  • Make a matching game.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started, but the possibility of teaching basic concepts of shapes is endless.

Teaching Animals

Teaching basic concepts of animals is probably the most fun of all of the basic concepts. I love pointing out animals by names in books and making their noises. Watching young kids reaction to me making the noises and trying to imitate the noises can be so much fun.

Books or smaller animal figurines are the easiest way to point out animals. Whatever animals you encounter in real life be sure to name for your child and if they don’t have the opportunity to hear the noise it makes, make it for them.

Once your child becomes familiar with a few animals, you can randomly ask them while they play what sound a specific animal makes and they will most likely be proud to show you what they know.

Teaching Letters

Letters are one of the most complicated early childhood concepts that young children learn. In my experience, letters are easiest learned in stages.

The first step is to master the ABC’s song. Once your child has mastered the ABC’s song, they will know the correct alphabetical order which will make identifying letters easier.

There are several books that focus on learning letter names but, you aren’t limited to just books. Pointing out letter sounds and names of toys your child are playing with is a great way to help with associating with specific letters.

There are so many amazing activities for teaching young kids letter recognition that I could go on and on but, I’ll save you the pages of reading. My most favorite way to teach letter recognition is to make a ‘letter board’.

What is a Letter Board?

A letter board is a cork board or cork board and dry erase board combination where you can post a letter to focus on. I prefer to use a combination board and write the letter on the dry erase side and pin a picture associated with the letter next to it. Whichever letter is on the board, spend a minimum of a week working on that specific letter.

Try to center your art projects and maybe a meal or two around the chosen letter. Centering as much stuff as you can around the chosen letter will help your child not only with recognition but also with association.

Letter Recognition Tip

While working in alphabetical order seems logical, your child has already memorized the ABC’s and will know what letter comes next without actually recognizing it. When you mix the letters up, they are forced to work on recognition.

Mixing Concepts

When it comes to teaching your child the basic concepts, you don’t need to focus on just one concept at a time. If you choose to cut the colored shapes out, you can work on color recognition along with the shapes. When working on numbers you can place a group of items of various colors on the floor and have your child count only one color.

Kids are capable of learning so many things at once that mixing concepts isn’t a big deal for them. Just remember that teaching your child any concept can feel daunting but, for them, they learn best through play. I can guarantee they will surprise you with how fast they pick up these new concepts.


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