5 Activities for Toddlers with Learning Disabilities
Every child is unique and has different learning needs. That’s why parents should personalise their child’s learning path.
SEN children’s brains work differently, so they may struggle to learn. A toddler with a learning difficulty is no less intelligent than other children of the same age. It simply means they want to learn but need a different method.
Here are some fun activities for toddlers with learning disabilities, special needs, or different ways of learning.
Common learning disabilities in toddlers
A learning condition characterised by trouble reading as a result of difficulties recognising speech sounds and understanding how they relate to letters and words. Dyslexia affects the language processing centres of the brain. One in ten people in the UK is estimated to have dyslexia.
A unique and ongoing trouble with numbers that can lead to difficulties with picking up mathematics. According to one study, 3–7% of children have dyscalculia.
Millions of children and often adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a chronic disorder characterised by trouble holding concentration, restlessness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Dysgraphia presents as difficulties with spelling and/or writing. It is a neurological condition affecting letter recognition and decoding, as well as the connection between letter forms and their sounds.
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) affects physical coordination and movement. It makes a toddler perform differently in daily activities and move ‘clumsily’. According to the NHS, “DCD is three or four times more common in boys than in girls, and it can run in families.”
Activities for toddlers with learning disabilities
Nurturing the sensory system can have a significant impact on toddlers who have learning difficulties.
Yoga is a mind-body exercise that can help children self-regulate. Have a go at doing some simple balancing yoga poses with your toddler to improve body awareness, motor skills, and flexibility. Throw in some specialised breathing exercises and relaxation techniques too to improve concentration and reduce hyperactivity.
Create a story line by line
Making a story together is a great activity for toddlers with learning disabilities. You start by saying one line, for example, “There was a princess who lived in a castle.” Your toddler then says the next line. This helps with communication, creativity, and confidence. The idea of sensory storytelling is to activate their imagination, so see if you can incorporate all five senses into the story.
Listen to or make music
Music helps non-verbal children and children who struggle to interpret emotion. It helps them to express themselves and aids those areas of a child’s brain impaired by a learning disability. Music is a nonverbal, multisensory experience, strengthening the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain related to speech and language, focusing, and concentration issues. According to studies, learning an instrument improves these areas, as well as impulse control, self-esteem, motivation, and memory. Why not get up and dance with your toddler too?
Play with sensory boxes
Sensory boxes can help SEN toddlers relax, quiet down, and focus better. They’re also great DIY learning tools and activities for toddlers with learning disabilities. This activity can help overstimulated toddlers become less anxious. It also aids social and emotional growth. They are easy to make. Simply get a plastic storage tub or cardboard box. It should be large enough for children to handle the objects without spilling. Pack it with interesting things with a distinct texture, smell, colour, or shape, such as:
- Dry pasta
- Shaving foam
- Buttons or beads
- Ice cubes
- Potting soil
- Shredded paper
- Popcorn kernels
Encourage kids to use their hands to explore using tools like spoons or sand shovels to scoop and pour while offering lots of positive reinforcement. Toy trucks, plastic animals, and other small objects that don’t pose a choking risk can be buried in the box. You could even use different themes like a jungle, under the sea, outer-space and a garden.
Every child, whether they have ADHD, autism, or another condition, has a specific need, but can all benefit from creative play. SEN children tend to have a very creative flair, so encouraging them to explore their creativity through multisensory activities will build their confidence. Let them go wild. Hands-on, creative activities for toddlers with learning disabilities help them practice a range of skills including communication, socialising, maths, and word association. Here are some ideas:
- Drawing, collage, clay, and painting
- Performance arts like acting and dancing
- Singing, music appreciation, and instrument discovery
- Writing stories, a diary, or observations on their day
- Imaginative play such as role-play using different characters and settings
The idea is to let children try different sensory experiences and engage in activities they enjoy. Positivity, enthusiasm, and encouragement on your part are important too. All of this adds up to a big role in your toddler’s development.
Concerned that your child has a learning disability?
If you suspect a common learning disability in your toddler, contact the SEN coordinator at your nursery, or your local council if your toddler isn’t currently at a nursery. More information can be found here.
Helping children with learning disabilities thrive at Maryam’s Nursery
We fully support SEN children at Maryam’s Nursery and will structure a bespoke learning and development plan for your little one. We have over two decades of experience and are fully trained to work with SEN children, full of ideas for activities for toddlers with learning disabilities.
Get in touch with us to find out more about what we can offer your toddler.