Published on LinkedIn April 21, 2017
Article Written By: Porsche Chisley
Mom. Educator. School Improvement Specialist.
As an educator and advocate for children, I often find myself contemplating whether or not I’m doing everything just right by my toddler. My husband and I are unrelenting at establishing routines and we put forth a great deal of effort trying to ensure a healthy lifestyle for our daughter. We swear by organic fruits and veggies, allow juice only as an occasional treat, avoid processed sugars and we’ve become insistent on detaching her from the security of her pacifier, better known as “Lola”.
It’s almost like we go through each day checking off boxes on an obscured baby raising checklist (which we NEVER quite master by the way). And just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, she delicately steps into another phase that we know nothing about and are hardly anticipating. It’s like studying all night for a geometry test only to fail the calculus assessment you never knew you were taking. And now, at the mere age of 20 months, I’ve finally realized that it’s partially our own insane expectations that cause much of our anxiety, fears, and the unreasonable standards we sometimes peg onto our innocent babies.
Laia turned 20 months recently and subconsciously I began to panic. The teacher in me bamboozled my brain into thinking that Laia should know all of her alphabet, numbers, and be a fluid reader by now! But who on earth was I kidding? The standard of parenting these days already feels unattainable. And now, instead of letting our children grow, play, and flourish at their own independent rate, we’ve gotten into a competition with other parents on who can raise the genius baby the fastest.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to raise an intelligent child like all the other parents out there. However, I don’t ever want learning to seem forced. I never want to forget that children learn naturally. Everything around them is a learning opportunity. We’ve become a culture so quick to purchase flashcards that we’ve forgotten the innocence of children learning through play and exploration. We’ve ignored the fact that they learn music through beating on pots and pans with wooden spoons in the kitchen. We’ve forgotten the fact that they sometimes explore their fine motor skills by doodling on tax papers left out on the living room ottoman (oops!).
We’ve placed so much emphasis on letter recognition and pointing to various colors on charts that we’ve forgotten that our children are natural learners. Our everyday conversations and bedtime stories are quick and easy lessons! Our chats with them in the car begin their introduction to literacy. Our facial expressions help them understand emotion. That’s learning. That’s everyday organic, fun, easy learning!
Playing with your child is some of the best learning out there! Eighty percent of your child’s brain is created in the first five years of life. But what on earth is happening during this time? The answer is: SO MUCH! Think about it, when you leave the house do you turn off the lights? If so, start letting your child do it for you. This is a really quick example of cause and effect. Light switch up = bright light! Light switch down= darkness. Your little one just had a 3 second science lesson. You should be proud of yourself!
After bath time, does your child shiver getting out of the tub? If so, you’ve just taught him/her what it feels like to be cold. Now say that word aloud to your baby, “cold!” That’s vocabulary! Keep it up mamas and papas. Here’s an exercise you’ll really love. Clean up with your little one after cooking dinner. They’ll start mimicking your cleaning and before you know it, all of those little Legos and puzzle pieces will be off the floor. Your little one will learn to clean. Who doesn't love that?
The moral of the story is, you’re probably already doing such a great job as a parent-teacher. Babies are born eager to learn and our environments serve as an amazing tool to assist us with that task. The conventional flashcards and foam letters are good, to an extent, but never forget that your daily interactions are lessons too. Talk to your baby. Play with your baby. Limit television, it distracts us from what’s super important, our growing little ones. Those three little rules make all the difference.
And finally, keep up the great work! We don’t hear that enough as parents.
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