It is easy for babies and toddlers to learn. Every single day is new and all that happens is an educational experience.
Show a baby a zipper and they learn.
Put their hand under running water and they learn.
Teach them a new word, and they learn.
But learning isn’t necessarily thriving when the world is full of big emotions and expectations.
However, parents can be narrators to the world around their kids and facilitators in making even the mundane an adventure to be had. While historically as humans we have believed babies know nothing upon being born, they’re intuitive little sponges that absorb everything they see and hear. So harness their learning potential from day one (or whenever you’re reading this!) to help them truly flourish.
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Before having kids, I taught in a high school classroom.
I had 125 kids ages 14-16 and they taught me so much about life, parenting, and what I wanted my kids to be like. And what I definitely didn’t want them to become.
It was a blessing to have experience teach high schoolers because I know what I expected from my students; therefore, I can teach my own children all those skills. But when they’re so young, sometimes it’s mind-mushing to not be able to dig deep into meaningful conversations with them.
But does that mean I should let my mind melt into a puddle of goop while I wait?
Of course not.
Easy ways expand your baby’s mind with a bit of intentional parenting.
Do not change your vocabulary.
Don’t “dumb down” words, bring your kids to your level. Expect your kids to learn words like facetious instead of silly, mundane instead of boring, and abhor instead of “don’t like” or “hate”.
Talk to your child like an adult.
They will respond to you whether you use “baby talk” or not. So respect them and they will respect you. This is not to say you should not imitate their sounds as an infant because that does help them develop language skills. However, do treat them as if they are rational, thinking individuals throughout childhood. Because they are. And they have more self-confidence if they feel like you are not just giving them lip-service. Their point-of-view is important.
Read to your children. Everyday.
This can be anything. Reading the newspaper to a child is still spending time with them and it is still allowing them to hear spoken language. Baby books are great too. In fact, the ones with one word per one picture help us make connections and remember better. Our brains are wired for relationships.
If your child says something ridiculous, don’t correct them. Ask them to explain.
Kids see the world through innocent and wondering eyes. If a child wants to “sciz” his paper then just asked him to elaborate. To him, mowers mow, players play, blenders blend, so scissors must sciz. You will discover a whole new world by not simply correcting and writing off a child.
Even with high-schoolers, allowing them to explain was a valuable tool for me and would lend insight into their minds.
And no matter the age of the child this helps you, as the adult, find better ways to help them navigate the adult world around them.
Make the everyday tedious and mundane activities fun learning experiences.
Get them involved in chores, tell them about the tasks you’re completing, and involve them in what you can.
For instance young kids can help you fold clothes. All of our children started this before the age of two. This helps with fine motor skills. This also helps with matching. You can have a pile for shirts, pants, underwear, etc. And they must be placed in those piles. As kids develop a little more, have them match socks. My husband’s dress socks are perfect for this. They tend to be the same color with different patterns or stitching.
No matter the task, find ways to let your kids see the adventure in life and not the drudgery. Because it won’t just help them learn, it will bring you more joy as a parent too!
Need help with handling your toddler or preschooler’s big emotions?
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!