When I read about those overzealous parents scribbling their unborn child’s name onto a waiting list for that “hot new preschool” it bugs the heck out of me. Now I know that these parents have only the best intentions, after all, they’re trying to get an early start on ensuring a top of the line education for their child. What’s wrong with that?
Quite a few things actually.
#1 – Your child is not a product, nor a hot new trend to show off as of ____enter scheduled cesarean date here____
#2 – Education IS important, but getting him into “the best of the best school” is not the sole purpose of your child’s existence
#3 – How can you predict what may happen or where you’ll even be three or four years from now?
#4 – You’re already putting high expectations on your child and she’s not even born
I could go on but you get the idea. The point I’m trying to make is that you should not rush your child into a formal type of education while they are still very young. I believe that three years old is a ridiculous age for preschool. Is the ABC’s really more important than exposing your child to your full attention, your love, guidance and life lessons? What is your child going to learn at circle time at the age of three that you can’t show him at home?
If it’s the socialization issue here’s a little tip. At three years old a child is moving from parallel play, or playing “beside” other children with no real interest in interaction, to associative play, or seeking out other children to play with. Engaging and actively playing with other children doesn’t really kick in until around four years of age. If play dates are your preference, schedule a play date once or twice a week, let your child play with the other children at the park, take your child to story time at the library. There are so many different options for exposing your child to other children. Preschool at three years old is just too young. There are no real lessons that your child can learn, or any life skills he will pick up by starting a method of traditional education so early in life. Intelligence is not a race to the finish line. You shouldn’t rush into early enrollment or unboxing that curriculum because you’re afraid that your child will “fall behind.”
That goes for us homeschoolers as well. Holding up flashcards in front of those angel eyes and trying to master motor skills with lesson plans are not beneficial for such a young child. Why do you want to rush through these beautiful years of discovery? Bonding, guidance, praise and security are all your little one needs to develop the essential skills that every child masters at the young stages. Baby Einstein isn’t necessary to grow and connect those neurons, a simple story and a walk through the park will do more for your child than “A-A-An-Annn-Ann-t-t-t-ANT!”
Young children need so much help with understanding and learning how to handle all those feelings that swarm throughout their bodies every minute of the day. Parents are the safest and most qualified individuals to help young children understand their feelings. Your child feels safer and more trust with you than they’ll ever feel with a teacher, daycare provider or peers. It’s critical for children to develop a sense of empathy and to learn how to handle those intense feelings that they can’t control while young. Spending the early years shaping those feelings, manners and morals that you want your child to have is more important than the ABC’s and 1 2 3’s. When your child becomes frustrated with something he doesn’t quite understand, would you rather he throws a huge tantrum, screaming about how he can’t do it, or would you rather he approaches you calmly and politely ask for help in solving this problem he can’t figure out by himself? By forcing your child to focus solely on drills, memorization and exposure to “a normal educational setting” you’re losing critical moments of emotional growth and understanding.
If you really want your young child to learn the basics, here’s something you can do from the comfort of your own home!
When it comes to the alphabet, colors, letters and numbers, matching games are the easiest and most fun introduction. I did this with my daughter when she was around two years old and didn’t try to force anything or rush her into learning anything. I just gave her these sets a few nights a week, matched everything myself while she watched and then cleared the board and watched as she tried to figure it out. Over a couple of weeks, she started figuring it out and began matching the cutout letters onto the sheet of letters perfectly. The same with the colors and numbers. Before my daughter was four years old she knew all her letters, colors and numbers up to twenty.
This is a fun and simple way to gently introduce your child to the world of education. If you’d like to give it a try, feel free to download and print this ABC set for your child. I’d suggest laminating every page and storing these into freezer bags or envelopes when not in use, because they will be used for quite some time and those little fingers can mess up and misplace little pieces of paper pretty fast! Always supervise your young child with these. I never had any problems but you can never be too careful with young children. I promise this is a very fun and enjoyable way to introduce your child to letters, numbers and colors.
We should never forget that children need our love and attention. Schools and flash cards can’t replace that special bond parents have with their children. Rushing into education is never a good idea. You’re only given so many years of those joyful baby and toddler years. Treasure and cherish these moments because once they’re gone you can’t get them back. With plenty of love, encouragement, motivation and most importantly, your attention and praise, your child will have no trouble learning everything he needs to know to be just as “smart” as those elite academy preschoolers who has parents more obsessed with status and labels than the pure joy and satisfaction that come from simply enjoying every moment of those early years.
Children don’t need fancy schools with professors at the head of the room. They just need their parents, plenty of hugs, kisses, attention and guidance to get a head start on life. Nothing more, nothing less.
What early educational activities have you used with your child? I’d love to hear about it below!