The following is a post from contributing writer Tabitha.
Sometimes we just don’t know where to start. You want your child to be happy about learning, to get a great head start, and to be the best they can be. Everything I’ve read about this topic has varying messages about starting early, keeping it simple,being consistent, finding the right preschool, but nothing very specific or really helpful to my situation.
When I first started having children, the internet wasn’t available (shock!), the books I found were old fashioned (get thee to a preschool, woman!), and I just went by what I thought was best for my family and children. (In other words, we weren’t sending the kids to a preschool…)
This is what has worked for us.
PLAY, PLAY, PLAY.
Kids learn by doing. At this age, playing is learning. Everything is interesting. Everything is fun. I did make sure we had things like colorful toys, alphabet magnets, and puzzles, but you don’t need “educational” toys for your child to be learning. I’m not saying the toys that do everything for the child aren’t great in moderation, but they aren’t necessary. (Okay, I can’t stand battery operated toys… the singing ones…. you know what I mean.)
Blocks. Puzzles. Crayons. Paper. Dolls. Stuffed animals. Rocks, sticks, and water. Pots and pans. You name it, your child will find a way to play with it. Who hasn’t seen their child play with an empty box for hours on end and wondered why you bothered with the toys in the other room?
Play with your child. Let your child play alone. Let your child play with siblings. Play with them outside. Watch them play outside. This is learning.
READ, READ, READ.
Have books for your child that they can read alone. Board books are great. We personally love Sandra Boynton books. They are colorful, funny, and can be reread many times.
Have special books that you read to your child often. Give books as gifts. Take your child to the library. Let them pick out their own books and then read them with them. You may be surprised at what they love. My oldest would go straight to the books about construction equipment at a very young age. Two is a little young for a child to know his way around the non-fiction department, but he did! And that is what we would read!
You don’t need to be up on the latest books that promote brain development, etc. Read what your child is interested in. Read what they pick out.
I’ve had three children under age three several times in the past. I did NOT have time to do everything I wanted to with my children. I didn’t spend hours on the floor with blocks and puzzles or even as much time as I wanted reading to them. However, I did spend time with them. As they tagged along with everything I did from cooking, cleaning, and errands to taking care of the baby, they would talk to me, and I would not send them away.
I would tell them what we were doing and why. We’d talk about the groceries, feeding the baby, changing diapers, what we were cleaning, how to help, and many other things. We’d count stairs, compare numbers, point out letters, see colors, and they’d always surprise me with what they picked up from just this little bit of conversation.
And yes, I even watched movies and TV with them. (Gasp!) However, I did not sit them down in front of a TV and go off to do something else. I needed to sit down too (and feed a baby, or something!), and we’d watch together and talk about what was happening or discuss the happenings of Sesame Street.
Early learning happens. Be there for it. Help guide them to what they need to know. Take their hand and let them come with you as you are learning, too, and you can’t go wrong.