“Practical Life” Learning for Babies
“I did it all by myself!” is a heart-warming exclamation that we long to hear our little ones express. The joy and sense of self-accomplishment and self-recognition that comes as our toddlers develop mastery of important life skills is a delight to behold. We can support our kids in this journey of discovery and growth by being intentional about the toys, activities, and learning environment we provide for our children, even as babies. It’s no accident that the classic wooden abacus and bead-based sorting play resources have stood the test of time. A firm favorite in nursery, kindergarten, and pre-school settings, wooden bead-based toys offer rich learning potential for young children.
Bead toys come in various shapes, colors, and sizes. A favorite bead-based activity amongst many nursery and preschool settings, including Montessori settings, is bead stringing, or threading, where children are encouraged to thread different colored, sized, and shaped beads onto cord, or string. This activity is part of what Montessori classrooms called “practical life” learning and helps children to develop concentration, patience, persistence, and fine motor control that will serve them well in many aspects of wider life. Toddlers and young children have the chance to choose the colors, and the shapes, and the order in which they string the beads, developing autonomy and independence, as well as creativity. And in doing so, they need to manipulate the shapes within their hand to locate the holes in which to insert the cord. This is great for the development of pre-writing skills, equipping toddlers to begin picking up crayons, mark-making, and eventually forming letters. Children benefit from parents offering support and help to get their child started, but with a little instruction, children soon grasp this beading skill for themselves and enjoy the independence this task allows them and appreciate that sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing their beading. A practical tip when supporting children with this task is to use sticky tape to secure one end of the cord to a flat surface, such as a table so that the beads don’t fall off from the other end of the string.
Another type of bead-based toy is the roller coaster bead toys, which are also a popular feature of preschool classrooms and nursery settings. There's plenty of variety of bead roller coaster toys suitable for a home setting, and these often come in different colors, shapes, and designs. Children are encouraged to move the bead, along the roller coaster, watching it as it twists and turns from one end to the other. The beads follow the path of various shaped and colored wires, safely secured onto the wooden base of the toy. Some wires are more complex than others, offering your toddler or young child variety and choice. This toy is great for promoting visual tracking, helping children to coordinate their hand-eye movements.
It also offers a chance for imaginative play as children dream up the possibilities that this bead represents a roller coaster, a train, or a space rocket. And in coming alongside your child as they play with such a toy, you can also support language development as children tell you all about the process they are undertaking. Vocabulary around color, shape, and speed, for example, can be developed through this task. As can spatial relations concepts such as over and under, down and up, right and left. And with some bead-based roller coaster toys or even simple abacuses, there is also an opportunity to understand numbers and maths.
Of course, it's important to choose high-quality bead-based products and wooden options are timeless classics which offer beautiful, and well made, tactile learning experiences for children. With carefully polished and smoothed surfaces for safety and finished to the highest standards, knowing wooden based bead toys are well made from natural materials is of comfort to parents, who want the very best for their children. So whether you go for threading and sorting beads, or a bead roller coaster toy, both offer plenty of rich learning experiences to delight your toddler or pre-schooler. It won’t be long before you hear: “I did it!”