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Quality Time with Toddlers
This month's QT activity is another one for toddlers. I tend to focus on this age group in part because keeping a toddler occupied and happy throughout the day is not always easy. They want to be their own boss (and yours also), and they have short attention spans. But they also like to feel important to the household, so ordinary tasks often have considerable appeal for them. This one allows you to get something done that you have to do anyway, and offers tremendous learning opportunities for your child. It involves sorting and folding laundry.

Sorting laundry. It always seems to me that sorting laundry is a job that is never finished. It's a job I hate to do, unless I have a little child helping in the process. Take your basket of clothes and offer the invitation, 'Let's sit here on the couch and sort the laundry. You look through the basket and find me all of your socks.' If he dredges up a matched pair, praise him heartily. If he produces just one of a pair, suggest 'Can you find me the one that matches that one?' Ask him to find other things you are certain he can identify. 'Where are your underpants?' 'Where is daddy's shirt?' Ask him to point to the place on his body where the things go.

This activity has a great deal of stretch to it. As he gets a bit older, ask him to produce items by color ('Find me a blue one') or size ('Do you see any big socks in there?'). Also, it can be used to develop classification skills—i.e., what goes with what. Hold up a towel and say, 'Find me another one like this,' accepting either another towel of a different color or size or a washcloth that matches the original item. And always label what he does for him: 'Hey, that's good. You found me another towel. They go on the same shelf.' If, accidentally or on purpose, he messes up one of the stacks of sorted clothes you have produced while generating his involvement, try not to get too upset. If you're not overly concerned about making certain that drawers are completely neat, let him put some of the things away. Show him first where they go, and then later ask him to find the correct drawer or shelf.

As soon as he discovers that this is 'real' work, he will, alas, lose interest in doing it. So enjoy it, and let him enjoy it, while you can. A great deal of relevant learning can occur during this activity.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education