In the early years, parents play an integral role in the teaching of toddlers. Your teaching skills won't necessarily mean the difference between the Ivy League and dropping out of high school, but they create the foundation for what's to come by encouraging curiosity. A toddler won't sit in a desk while you lecture him, so get active and involved while teaching your child.
In the early toddler years, games such as peek-a-boo teach your child social skills, language and how to anticipate what people will do. At 2 or 3 years of age, your child might be ready for some simple board games such as Candy Land, which helps your child learn colors and follow rules, and Memory, which teaches vocabulary and builds memory. Made-up games also work well to teach concepts. Young children can go on a "shape walk," learning to identify shapes in everyday objects, while older children might go on a "letter walk," identifying the beginning sounds of words. Formal games such as soccer and T-ball, as well as informal ones such as kicking or throwing a ball, help teach your child gross motor skills.
Singing songs with your child can also help her learn words and other concepts. The catchy tunes and rhyming words make them easy to remember. Many classic children's songs such as "10 Little Pumpkins" and "One, Two Buckle My Shoe" teach counting. Other songs might acquaint a child with colors, the body, science and just about anything you can imagine. Your library is a fine resource for trying before buying.
Children learn through play, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and toys help make this happen. Pretend play, such as cooking in a toy kitchen or wearing an astronaut costume, encourages creativity and helps build social skills. Toys with movable parts encourage fine motor skills. If you sit down with your child to play, you can also teach concepts such as sorting cars from trucks, counting stuffed animals or learning the colors from the blocks.
Sitting down with a good book and your child each day can open a wide, wonderful world for the both of you. Not only will it teach her some of the fundamentals of reading such as the way you turn pages, that letters make sounds and that all stories have a beginning, middle and end, it will also teach her words you wouldn't have been able to teach otherwise, including "dragon" and "elf." Books also can teach about other cultures, scientific concepts and counting.