Rookie Dad Tackles the Toddler By Susan Fox
Book/Novel Author: Susan Fox
Book/Novel Title: Rookie Dad Tackles the Toddler
Let’s get ready to rumble!
Dads discover that the rules of the parenting game change completely after their baby moves into the wonderful and totally physical toddler world of discovery and learning. How can you be a hands-on dad and play a vital role in your one-to-three-year-old’s development? With the fun exercises and activities for dads and kids in Rookie Dad Tackles the Toddler!
* Working out in the Brain Gym, kids grasp colors, sizes, and shapes
* Kid Talk pumps up language and listening skills
* Cool down tantrums and meltdowns by stepping Out of Bounds
* Learn the ABCs of eating like a champion with Peak Performance
Even the busiest father can make bedtime or getting dressed child’s play with these simple, interactive games. Go for the gold with your toddlers — and enjoy the prize of having happier, healthier, more capable children who strive for big things — thanks to you, their hero. **
### About the Author
**Susan Fox** , a licensed pediatric neurodevelopmental therapist, is director of the Pediatric Therapy Clinic in Seattle. Her guide for fathers of babies in their first year, Rookie Dad, is available from Pocket Books. Fox teaches workshops on child development at Microsoft, and trains early childhood educators, therapists, nurses, and physicians.
### Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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**Brain Gym: Colors, Sizes, and Shapes** It’s a well-known fact that intelligent dads usually have intelligent kids, which means that the next Einstein could be sitting in your living room watching *Teletubbies.* But when it comes to “smarts,” genes aren’t everything. Nurture is just as important as nature, and you can give even the brightest toddler a boost in the learning department by providing brain exercise in the form of new experiences. Right now, your child’s brain is literally under construction. Over the next two years, trillions of connections will form between her brain cells, and those connections will help determine everything, from how well she’ll speak a foreign language to how good she’ll be at trigonometry, history, or quantum physics. Every interesting new experience you offer her — petting a goat, smelling a flower, reading a new book — will build new connections, and those connections translate into increased brainpower. *Show her how bathtub toys float and how rocks dropped into a puddle sink. Buy her a set of toy tools, and show her how they work. Have her put her hands on her chest, to feel her own heartbeat and breathing, and then let her do the same to you. Let her watch and help (or at least think she’s helping!) as you fold the laundry, vacuum the car, cook a meal, hammer a nail, or play a musical instrument. Take bus rides together to parks, stores, and restaurants. These real-life lessons will stick with your child much longer than anything she’d learn from a worksheet.* A Toddler “Lesson Plan” Though most parents want to start with academic skills, such as counting and reading, you’re better off teaching these skills at the preschool or elementary school stage, when your child is ready to master them. Instead work on basic thinking skills, including: * ***Problem solving.*** Stacking toys, big keys and locks, nesting toys, shape sorters, simple puzzles, oversized nuts and bolts, and blocks will stimulate your toddler’s gray matter. Have him sort toys, nuts, books, and balls by size. And give him some everyday challenges. For instance, say, “Your toys won’t fit in your toy box. What should we do?” Ask him, “Where does the water in the hose come from?” and turn the water on and off at the spigot so that he begins to learn cause and effect. * ***Discrimination.*** Work on the concepts of *same* and *different.* For instance, show her three spoons and one cup, and say, “What’s different?” “What’s the same?” * ***Memory.*** Let your toddler watch while you hide plastic animals, spoons, or small toys under a cloth, and then ask, “Where did Daddy put it?” Also, show her photos of recent events — a holiday, family gathering, or birthday party — and ask her about the people in the photos. * ***Imaginative play.*** Foster your child’s creativity by playing imagination games. For instance, pretend that you’re both cars and race around the yard, or pretend that you’re animals in the zoo. Play games where she feeds her dolly or Dad. Play barber or beauty shop, or grocery store, or stage a puppet show.
Also, buy her a play doctor’s kit, a toy vacuum cleaner, a telephone, a toy lawn mower, pretend food, tools, or other toys that will let her play at being a grown-up. Pass on some of your old clothes, too; your toddler will love dressing up in your old hats, socks, and shoes, or even lugging around an old briefcase. **Show and tell helps** When you’re explaining new concepts to your toddler, repetition is crucial, and it may take five, ten, or even more tries for your toddler to learn a new piece of information. Also, hands-on learning is likely to stick in her head far better than lectures. You can talk about “bigger” and “smaller” all day long, but you’re better off grabbing a glob of Play-Doh, showing her how to make tiny, medium-sized, and huge clay snakes, and then letting her try it herself. Similarly, you can illustrate the concept of *through* very simply by sticking a straw through a cookie or a ball of Play-Doh. If you’re teaching her words like *under, on,* and *through,* create an obstacle course that involves crawling under tables, climbing over pillows, and going through tunnels. Use blocks to illustrate *tall* and *short,* or glasses of water to show the difference between *cool* and *warm.* **Questions…and more questions…** Talking to your toddler is important too, especially when it comes to answering her questions. Her endless questions may drive you crazy at times, but she needs to learn a million facts about her universe, and you’re the person she trusts the most to have straight answers. The constant questioning of toddlers starts early, with a one-year-old’s “What’s that?” and advances to a two- to three-year-old’s “Why is the sun warm?” and similar toughies. Try to answer every question your toddler dreams up, using simple language she can understand. (Of course, you don’t need to answer *every* question fully. One of my favorite overheard conversations in a grocery store went like this: “Daddy, what’s this?” “It’s a box of Tampax.” “What’s it for?” “It’s for ladies.” “What do they do with it?” “They stick it in the bathroom cabinet. Now” — note of desperation in Dad’s voice — “let’s go pick out some cookies!”) **No time?** If you’re one of those lucky dads who’s home every night and every weekend, it won’t be hard to find opportunities to teach your child about her world. But if you’re so swamped with overtime work or other obligations that you don’t have time to make Play-Doh snakes, build obstacle courses, or take your child to the zoo, you can still give your toddler’s brain cells a workout even if you can only spare ten or fifteen minutes at bedtime. How? *Just by picking up a book.* Reading is one of the most important learning activities you can share with your child, because children who are read to have larger vocabularies and do better in school than other children. So if your work schedule allows, start a bedtime-story reading ritual with your toddler. In addition to teaching her new words and exposing her to new worlds, a cuddle with Dad and a bedtime-story session at the same time each night will relax her and help her fall asleep — which means that you might get a chance to read a little of your *own* book! When you read to your toddler, let her be involved in the story you’re telling. Ask, “What did the lion say?” or say, “Show me the dog.” Ask her to turn the pages for you; she’ll enjoy participating. To improve her memory skills, ask her if she remembers what happened in earlier parts of the story. And relate the stories to her own life: If you’re reading about ice cream, go open the freezer and look at the ice cream you have. If possible, insert her name into the story as you’re reading. **When sitting still to hear a story is a problem** If you have a squirmy toddler who has trouble sitting still for long, give her a small toy to hold. Pick one that relates to the book; for instance, if you’re reading about toy cars, have her hold a car. Encourage her to hold her toy car up to the picture of the car in the book, so she can develop the concept that pictures represent real objects. Kids often enjoy reading a story while rocking in a rocking chair. **Not that book again…** Your brain may recoil at the idea of reading *The Very Hungry Caterpillar* for the hundred-and-sixty-seventh time, but a familiar book is as great a joy to your toddler as that well-worn tape of *Terminator II* is to you. If your toddler wants to read her favorite books over and over and over again, let it happen. As you read the same stories over and over, your child will naturally begin making the connection between the story you’re telling and the words she sees on the page. **Make it fun, not hard work** It is fun to find and trace letters with fingers and to go on a letter hunt. Your child will soon be able to spot the first letter of her name and *D for Dad* every time it turns up. Bring the pages of books to life for your child with funny voices, entertaining sound effects, and insightful Dad-type commentary, and make reading time a fun time with lots of cuddling and praise. Reading with Dad *is* fun! The more you play with your toddler today, the better off she’ll be when she sets foot in the classroom. And ask yourself this: When you look back on your own life, do you say, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time with flash cards?” Give your toddler a nature lesson by letting her help you plant a garden. Give her a cooking lesson by showing her how to make instant pudding. Give her a physics lesson in the bathroom; flush the toilet and let her watch the water swirl down. Introduce her to the ants and earthworms in your backyard, and water the yard together so she can learn how water comes out of the hose.
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**”Daddy Delivers”** Eighteen months to three years Kids love getting mail, even a scrap of paper. For a younger toddler, write your child a short note, draw a picture, a doodle, even a stick figure of Dad, or cut out a picture of an animal from a magazine. An older child can “dictate” a letter to you, other family members, or even your family pet. Put the picture or letter into an envelope your child can open. Write your child’s name on the outside, and add a picture of a stamp. Make a mailbox, and then practice “delivering” the mail. **Game tip:** *You can make a mailbox out of a cardboard shoe box, or buy a small mailbox at the hardware store.* **”Laundry Basket Rebound”** One to four years Give Mom a hand and earn some bonus points. It’s a great way to learn new words and practice grasping and releasing objects. (Handy for that first trout-fishing trip.) Sorting laundry teaches your child how to match and put things in ord…