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Unschooling Ideas for Babies and Toddlers
What is Unschooling?
Unschooling is schooling without walls, borders, road blocks, or hindrances. It is a form of homeschooling that encourages children to learn through natural curiosity and their innate desire to discover the unknown.
Many people have heard of homeschooling, but unschooling is still a relatively unheard of term. It has been made popular as of late by people such as Dayna Martin and Sandra Dodd.
Unschoolers have the liberty to learn from their environment and to learn from nature. If the unschooled child has a profound interest in Greek mythology, that child can go out and find every resource he or she possibly can on the subject. They can spend all day, or even all month, studying Greek mythology. They do not have to worry about putting down their books on myth to work on math worksheets.
This is not to say that the unschooler is not a well-rounded and well-educated child. When a child is left to explore at his or her own free will, you will be surprised at how much they will absorb. Unschoolers tend to always test at the same level or above their peers when evaluated by the states every year. They are still learning, just not in the same manner as public school or traditional homeschooled children learn.
Unschooling is NOT Lazy Parenting
Okay, so you're probably thinking that unschooling is the ultimate way to be a lazy parent. This is absolutely false. In fact, the majority of unschooling parents actually do spend just as much preparing and planning as the average homeschooling parent.
Instead of relying on curriculum for their children's educations, unschooling parents use what is called "strewing". Strewing is where the parent leaves out little trinkets to peek their child's interest. For example, if your toddler is very interested in cars, you might would bring out a toddler-acceptable model car for them to build. While the child is working on constructing the model car, the you could go over the various basic parts of the car, explain to the child how a car runs, a basic history of cars, etc..
Unschooling Babies and Toddlers
One of the wonderful things about unschooling is that it starts from birth. Children are constantly growing and learning, especially in the early stages of life.
Babies and toddlers will need more help in their unschooling, but it is well worth it to begin working with them and discovering their interests early on in their lives.
With my 2 year-old son, his interests right now are trains, cars, magnets, dancing, and letters. He is also a voracious eater, so I try to include activities that involve the preparation of food. We play music throughout the day and take moments in between chores and daily activities to dance around and get some of the wiggles we've built up through the day out.
With my 1 year-old daughter, her interests include: dancing, singing (she loves listening to operas), various art mediums, playing dress up, and trying new foods. She and I enjoy watching the occasional musical - her current favorite being The Phantom of the Opera. Also, when she and my son are playing dress up, I try to teach them their colors, matching, how to properly dress, etc..
Typically the kids, my husband, and I will all read children's books a couple of times a day. My son's favorite books are pretty much any Dr. Seuss book, while my daughter loves Curious George. We also enjoy going to our local library once a week and stocking up on enough picture and chapter books to last us the entire week.
If you don't know what your child's interests are, just watch him or her for a day. Play music, sing, and dance. Do some finger painting or play with homemade play dough. Their interests are very clear very early in life, you just have to watch and learn from them.
Fun Unschooling Ideas for Babies
- Go for a walk outside. Let your baby crawl or roll around in the grass and leaves. If you have any pets, let them touch their fur. Let your baby feel the grass in his or her fingers. Taking your baby outside on a regular basis will help them to understand the seasons and hot & cold temperatures.
- Depth perception. Fill a small bowl with room temperature water. Place a few water-safe toys inside of the bowl. Help your baby try to get their toys out of the water. It is best to do this activity when the baby is already able to sit up on his or her own.
- Talk to your baby regularly. Children learn their language skills from you. If you never talk to them, it can delay their language skills.
- Read to your baby. This sounds silly to some people, but children learn how to speak and communicate from you. Reading to them helps stimulate their vocabulary and helps them to learn how to form words.
- Sing and play music. Studies have shown that music helps babies develop, even as early as in the womb. Sing and play a variety of music, preferably classical, folk, and softer music.
Fun Unschooling Ideas for Toddlers
- Make homemade playdough and let the child have fun pulling it apart and piecing it back together again.
- Learn a song in a foreign language and sing it for a day or even a week.
- Search through the house for geometrical shapes. Have your toddler find everything that is shaped like a circle, a square, etc..
- Get out some of your herbs and spices and have your toddler touch, smell, and even taste (if appropriate) the herbs. Explain to them each herb and what it's used for. Once this is done, blindfold them (if they approve) and have them try to figure out which herb is which through their senses of taste, touch, and smell.
- Each month, pick a country to learn about. Learn about the food, culture, and dress of the natives. Cook something that is native to that country. Play music that is native to that country.
- Build a fort or tent inside your house somewhere. Play inside of it with your child and let them play on their own. Allow their imaginations to soar as they explore this new mysterious place.
- Leave letters and numbers lying around so that your toddler (babies, too!) can be learning about the shape of letters and numbers. Invest in foam letters and numbers so that your child can feel the shape of the object. Also, invest in magnetic numbers and letters so that you child can study them on the fridge while you're cleaning or cooking.
- Take a farm tour so that your child can learn about where his or her food comes from, what sounds animals make, what food looks like when it's on the plant still, etc..
- Walk down your neighborhood with your child and listen for sounds. When you hear a dog bark, tell your child that it is a dog that is barking. When wind blows through their hair, tell them about the wind. When they find a leaf, tell them all about leaves and that they come from trees.
Books on Unschooling
Just Go With It
Unschooling doesn't have to be ridiculously complicated, especially not with babies and toddlers. Just follow their cues, provide them with a rich learning environment, and be actively involved with them to help foster and cultivate their own intuition.
All you need to successfully raise thriving individuals is to love them and have the desire to help them succeed and learn. Unschooling doesn't have to cost a thing and can be achieved through the use of the internet, your local library, Mother Nature, and sheer curiosity.
Dayna Martin: Common Unschooling Questions Answered
Do you plan on unschooling?
Blogs That Write About Unschooling
- Official Site of Dayna Martin | Radical Unschooling | Unschooling
Radical Unschooling is an evolution of our understanding about learning and the rights and respect of children. We are on the cusp of change and many people are looking for alternatives to the traditional schooling model. With Unschooling, we are rep
- Primordial Willow
This is my personal blog in which I write about paganism, homeschooling/unschooling, herbalism, and simple living.
- Witch Mom
Witch Mom blogs about Paganism/Witchcraft, Feminism, Unschooling, and Homesteading.