Once upon a time, we believed that our children started the learning process when they turned five years of age and became eligible to enter kindergarten. Then it was deemed wiser to enroll them in one or two years of preschool at age three or four to give them that extra head start advantage on their pathways to learning. Sadly, not many know or understand that humans begin losing brain cells at age three and four, so it is entirely up to parents and grandparents to stimulate maximum capacity for learning in children. In the first one to two years, children learn to walk, talk, and think, which is really amazing.
To fully develop literacy in your children, which means the ability to read, write, and speak well, it is important to talk to them from the moment they are born. They need not only to hear your voice, but also to watch your mouth and lips as you form sounds, words and sentences. As babies move through the babbling stage of language development, it is crucial that you reinforce their syllables with the correct pronunciation of the word they are trying to express. For example, if a little one asks for his “baba” you respond with “here is your bottle.” Explanations of what you are doing are also valuable, as “Mommy is going to give you a bath now. We need a cloth, a towel and the shampoo.”
Singing to your children also sparks language development. It is a great way for babies to learn about language, and is truly fun for them. Plus, the lobe of the brain associated with music also has much to do with developing math skills. Children also love to create music. Special programs such as Kinder Musik and Zumbini are great motivators for both babies and their parents to enjoy music together.
Reading to your children from the moment they enter the world is perhaps the most wonderful gift you can give them. Books open up whole worlds full of new things, places, and potential friends. Baby board books are a great beginning place. Children learn much just by looking at the pictures and having a parent name the objects they see. Developing a love of reading at a very early age can forever help determine a lifelong love of learning. And remember, don’t just read the words, ask questions and give more information. Don’t be surprised if your little one wants to “taste” the book you are reading. That’s another important way children learn!
If you are not certain about what books might be good for your child, there is always lots of help available at your local library or book store. If you recall some of your favorite childhood books, share them with your children, as well.
Even tots like to color and scribble which familiarizes them with early writing skills. Just be certain to do this in a place that can’t be harmed by crayons, etc. Remember that your children are looking to you to learn. You are your children’s first teacher, and only you can capitalize on the tremendous capacity for learning and development that is present from birth to age three.
If you have a child with special needs, there are many new ways that he or she can master reading, writing, and communicating. Contact your local schools and AEA for screenings and educational suggestions Many parents are currently using a simple ”vocabulary” of American Sign Language to foster early communication with their children.
Is television useful in this early learning process? It can be when children’s educational programming focuses on learning words, numbers, colors, etc. However, never use the television as an electronic babysitter. Better opportunities occur when you are out and about with your children. For example, the grocery store is a great place for lessons in foods, colors, sizes, textures, etc. Show your children signage, and read to them from the signs and signals you see. Children will quickly pick up on the concept that we all use reading and writing wherever we go.
It is also important to provide children with opportunities for play and exploration while they are under four years of age. Look at this as an opportunity for you to enjoy a “second childhood” as you enrich your children’s lives!
Recent studies are proving that language development is being negatively affected by “screen time.” Not only are children of all ages spending too many hours in front of phones, pads, computers, televisions, electronic games and such, but sadly, the parents are also far too involved with their devices. A new generation is not developing communication skills that will help them in all aspects of life. The art of the written word is being lost to typing and texting. Fewer and fewer are able to converse with positive eye contact which is critical to the bonding process.
You can reap great benefits for your children if you listen and respond to them, talk to them, sing to them and read to them. When they start school, stay involved with what they are learning, especially in the early grades. You are their first teacher, so strive to be their best, as well!
“Teach a child how he should live, and he will remember it all his life”.