As parents we wear so many different hats. We’re chefs, house keepers, taxi drivers, boo-boo kissers, and most importantly, we’re our child’s first teacher. Their foundation for learning in life begins with us. When Zadey was born I remember the “ah-ha” moment I had about my responsibility in building this foundation. I was intimidated and I worried about my ability to actually inspire a love of learning. I mean, I’m not a real teacher, so how could it be my job to do this?
I spent hours looking for guidance, an understanding of how children learn, and how I can incorporate everyday life in with those foundation teaching moments. The immense pressure I placed on myself was, at times, overwhelming.
Now that Henry and Oliver are here, I have loosened up a bit, but I haven’t forgotten all of those lessons that I learned with Zadey. That’s the great thing about parenting after the first child, you worry a bit less and enjoy the process more. Yet, even with everything I have done with Zadey, I still have more to learn; however, the basics are there.
Talk. Read. Sing.
I remember exactly what I was doing and where I was when my mom told me that I should just talk to Zadey, all day long, and tell her what I’m doing. And I remember so clearly thinking “But, she’s just a little baby, she won’t understand.”
Of course she wouldn’t understand, but how was she going to learn if I didn’t say something? And that’s when I began to narrate my activities to Zadey. She watched as I cleaned the house, made dinner, worked at the computer, sorted laundry, and I told her about all of it. There I would be, alone with my newborn, explaining how to make a salad or sort the laundry. I could have been saying anything, really. It was through much reading, learning, and those slew of parenting articles that I realized that my talking to her was helping her develop her language skills.
Shortly after Henry and Oliver were born and home from the hospital, I began to do the same thing in a slightly different way. I read yet another article written by another parent that said something like, “How would you like it if someone grabbed you and just started doing things and you had no clue what was happening?” After reading that statement I thought, “Okay, that makes sense.” So, while I still narrate my movements to them, still at 18 months old, I also tell them what I’m going to do with them. For example:
“Henry, Oliver, it’s time to get ready for bed. Help mommy get fresh diapers, wipes, and your pajamas. Then we’ll go in the living room and change our clothes.”
Do you do this?
When dressing them I also try to incorporate more:
“Left arm, left sleeve… hey, where did your hand go? Oh, there it is! Now, right arm, right sleeve… oh no, we have to find that missing hand again!”
What I’ve noticed from these types of “one-sided” conversations with my boys is that they are picking up on more things around us. Both of them can go to the dresser drawer where we keep their pajamas when it’s time to get ready for bed. At each meal they attempt to take off their shirts when I tell them “time to eat” (because seriously, taking off clothes is so much easier than getting the stain remover out for every load of laundry).
Sing & Dance… There Must Be Dancing!
About a month or so ago Oliver had a really off day. Something wasn’t right with him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The day progressed like normal and after dinner, we decided to turn on Pandora while cleaning up the house and getting the kids through the bath routine. And that’s when we noticed a difference in Oliver. From being fussy and irritated all day long, Oliver instantly turned happy. He danced, played, and was his happy self again.
See, my boys are used to music in the house all day long in some form or fashion. Between their child-friendly stations set on Pandora to nursery songs we have on CD, they love listening to music. For some reason that day we hadn’t played any and it had Oliver out of sorts. His passion for music is written all over his face and body as any time it is on, he’s such a happy sweet boy who’s dancing, moving, and grooving to the music as he goes throughout his normal daily play.
Beyond the normal songs for kids and my Oliver’s love of dancing, it has always brought me great joy to sing with my kids and create new lyrics to old songs for my kids to enjoy. For example, Zadey needed a song when she was younger to run through as we brushed her teeth. And for years now I have sung to her as we brush her teeth (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat):
Brush, brush, brush your teeth
1, 2, and 3
Up and down and all around
Brush your teeth with me
I sing this to her over and over while we brush her teeth. And now, my boys get the same song as we brush their teeth. I hope, one day, they sing this little jingle I made up to their kids, too.
Read. Then Read More!
Buying my beloved children’s books for my kids and reading them all over again is one of my favorite things as a parent. We have books we have read so many times together, Zadey can recite the entire thing. Trips to the library to discover more books has opened up a world of imagination and play for my children that I can’t imagine not having this very vital moment with them daily.
Plus, long after the baby wants to constantly snuggle, it feels so good to have my big girl climb up in my lap for a good book.
As someone who enjoys reading for pleasure, instilling a love of books in my children is really important to me. But, watching their own love of books is even more joyful. Zadey was just 3 years old when she would stop me in the middle of a story to create a whole new life for the main character of a story. She would give them background, history, a family, or anything else the book may have been lacking. To watch those thought processes come to life with her imagination has been so rewarding and exciting.
For the boys it has been hard to get them to sit still long enough to enjoy even short stories. But I still enjoy reading to them even if they won’t sit down long enough. Because reading to your children is so important, I do regardless of their willingness to sit with me. While they play with their toys, I read anyway. And when they decide to glance at the book I share with them the pictures they are missing and ask them questions about what they may see on the page. This engagement will help them develop their own love for reading. Not to mention all of the other rewarding benefits reading to our children has.
Early Childhood Learning Is Important
The great thing about being a parent is helping these small people grow, learn, and become the person they will be. Or even how our own behaviors and style of teaching will have an impact on their lives. And that’s why First 5 California helps parents realize the impact they have on shaping their child’s future and love of education.
With great articles about how children learn, how their minds work, and activities to foster learning, First 5 California is a great resource for all parents, grandparents, and caregivers of children ages 0 to 5 years old.
How do you foster your child’s love of learning and early brain development? In which ways to do you talk, read, and sing with your children?
For more great ideas about how you can talk, read and sing with your children, visit First 5 California’s Facebook Page. #talkreadsing
You can also visit the first First 5 California website to download free printables, ideas for great activities, and so much more. Visit First 5 California right now.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of First 5 California via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.