This post is brought to you by HABA USA and written by guest blogger Jennifer Weedon Palazzo of MomCaveTV.com.
As a first-time mom, it’s been interesting to watch the different approaches to learning and play that many of my peers have. Most of us are college educated, urban professionals, who chose to have children later in life. Because these children were so wanted and long-awaited, we tend to have very strong opinions about the “best” way to raise them. We’re well aware of years-long waiting lists at the local preschools. Schools with application processes involving entrance interviews and parent essays! And so, my group of Manhattan moms are concerned about their child’s “academic” potential pretty much from birth.
But does a two-year old REALLY need to be drilled on the alphabet, numbers, and even basic arithmetic? At the risk of losing my membership in the Manhattan Mommies Club, I’ll answer with an emphatic, “No!”
Skip the “workbooks” you can buy for children of this age, teaching them letters and numbers, colors and shapes. It’s more effective (both academically and for the mental well-being of the child) to learn through doing and playing.
Children’s brains are like sponges, soaking in the stimuli around them. Remember, EVERYTHING is new to them. So a mundane activity for adults like grocery shopping becomes a valuable opportunity to learn for the child. Talk to your child and involve him in the activity at hand. “Let’s pick out a yummy red apple for snack today. How many oranges should we buy? One, two, three, four…” Your child will absorb the concepts of color and numbers more easily that if you do what many well-meaning peers of mine do--making a point to sit a child down to “play” school.
Remember our generation’s beloved Mr. (Fred) Rogers. He said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.”
What’s more effective than cartoon-adorned flashcards to teach addition and subtraction? REAL world addition and subtraction. Involve your child in daily food preparation. “I have two mushrooms chopped up here. I need three. Can you hand Mama one more mushroom to make three?” Allow the child to “chop” vegetables alongside you by giving him a tiny cutting board and a butter knife to chop your discarded pieces as you cook.
And allow your child periods of unstructured play, without using media to entertain them. There is real value in your child using his or her imagination to come up with scenarios. A slinky becomes a necklace. A paper towel roll becomes a knight’s sword. Even an only child will play with the imaginary companions of his/her stuffed animals or other toys, if given the chance. It’s just that as modern parents, we are so used to multitasking and electronic stimuli, that we think our children need it, too. They don’t. Play is the “work” of childhood. Play is where children truly learn and develop complex ideas.
So throw away the flashcards, the kiddie laptop that “teaches” Spanish, and the preschool workbooks. You may see that your child “learns” much, much more from playing with a cardboard box and a couple of rocks.
About The Author Jennifer Weedon Palazzo is the creator/writer/and producer of MomCaveTV.com an online network of comedy shows for moms including Slummy Mummy, Double Leche, Blabbermom, and MomCave LIVE. She's a working actress in NYC who has appeared in films, commercials, and some very off-off Broadway plays. When she’s not writing about the funny side of being a mom (for blogs like Scary Mommy and Mamalode) Jennifer can be found eating Reese’s Cups while furiously bidding on vintage clothing on eBay. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Evan, bandleader of The Hot Sardines and their 4 year old son, with Baby #2 on the way. Watch MomCave at: www.youtube.com/MomCave Like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MomCaveTV and Follow along on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MomCaveTV