Learning toys for toddlers and developmental educational activities are important for encouraging and developing the naturally inquisitive minds of the youngest children. However, even if you are a conscientious parent who buys the most highly rated toys and books, there are critical mistakes that you are probably making that could keep your child from being ready to learn.
 
You have probably heard at least some of these, but here are 7 of the most common mistakes along with positive, corrective steps that you or caregivers in your child’s life can take to help your toddler or pre-schooler become an enthusiastic learner.
 
Mistake 1:  Not Reading to Your Child Every Day
 
Solution: Read to your child at least 20 minutes a day. Discuss each book that your child reads while you are reading together. This reading time doesn’t have to be all at once. At home, we have a set of 5-Minute Bedtime Stories books that essentially are summary plots from my youngest son’s favorite movies (Cars, Finding Nemo, and more). It’s easy to pick one up and get some quality reading time in with him, even when I’m busy and working under deadlines.

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Mistake 2: Buying the Wrong Kinds of Books
 
Solution: Buy and read picture books with your child. Make sure your child’s books have lots of pictures! A recent study by researchers from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University  (Gelman, Waxman and Kleinberg 2008) has found that the very common parent-child activity of picture-book reading may be the most effective way to encourage early knowledge and cognitive development.
 
Mistake 3: Hiding Books from Kids
 
Solution: Keep all kinds of reading materials around the house. While it’s great to keep a tidy house, leave the books out! Make it easy for your child to find something to read. When growing up, all of my mother’s books were easily available on bookshelves in the living room. I was exposed to many books – some of which I didn’t understand at four and five, but it sure encouraged my love of reading. As I got older, I re-read the books I was exposed to at a much younger age.
 
Mistake 4: Reading in Private
 
Solution: Make sure your child sees you read regularly each day. Don’t make taking time out to read a personal activity or quiet time for you alone. Don’t just read in your bed after your child has gone to sleep or before they wake up. Let them see that you love to read!
 
Mistake 5: Not telling stories to your child
 
Solution: Tell stories to your children all the time. Often, we get into a mindset where we are always lecturing our children. At the earliest ages, we tell them how to go to the potty, to be careful, to play nicely and that carries into the teenage years when the stakes are even higher. Get into the habit now of talking to your children about the things you see or people you meet during the day. Share your opinions about current affairs and your personal challenges and triumphs. As you’ve often heard, the toddler mind is like a sponge-I swear the more stories I tell my  youngest son, a two-year old, the more his vocabulary grows!
 
Mistake 6: Not watching TV with your child

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Solution: Of course you have heard that you should limit TV watching, especially for children under two years old. It’s probably more important to be wary of the kinds of shows your child watches. Even cartoons on kid networks can be racy or bizarre.  But no matter what you allow your child to watch, don’t let them watch TV alone. There are so many images and messages that they are exposed to during television shows and commercials. Watch shows together and explain what they are seeing. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity.
 
Mistake 7: Not encouraging and participating in unstructured play
 
Solution: Encourage and participate in unstructured play with your child. Over the past two decades, research has consistently shown that highly structured learning environments work in opposition to the natural learning processes of pre-school children. Unstructured, self-directed play at that age-range leads to the development of problem solving, literacy, creativity and social skills.