What mom thinks to herself, “I hope my child struggles in school?” That’s a really silly question, isn’t it? Because of course the answer is NO ONE. So why not give your child a leg up by starting to teach him early. And it doesn’t have to be hard to teach your child their ABCs either! And by the way, I’m not a teacher, and you don’t have to be either in order to have success teaching your children.
1. Use screen time wisely.
Now, if you are one of those awesome moms that doesn’t let your child look at a screen before the age of 2, then we have nothing in common 😉 I’m mostly kidding. If you never let your little one watch a screen early on in life, then your child is probably even better off than mine, but unfortunately, there has been a lot of screen time for my kids. But I do my best to use it wisely!
My kids don’t watch just anything, but instead they are watching educational TV for short amounts of time. A personal favorite of mine is Super Why. This show helped my son grow to love his letters, and it also gives a lot of good foundations for early reading. Rhyming is important to reading, as well as recognizing patterns in spelling, and this show has it all!
I also LOVE Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It’s a spin-off of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. While this show doesn’t teach letters and numbers as much, it helps with social skills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung Daniel Tiger songs to get my 2 year old to clean up, be patient, get ready for bed, and so on. THEY WORK.
Now, I’m not advocating at all to just sit your child in front of the TV until they’re 5 and then they’ll be brilliant. No, that’s a bad idea. I’m saying that if you HAVE to use the TV at all, then make smart choices about what your little one is going to watch.
2. FOLLOW UP after screen time.
The end all answer isn’t educational TV either. In fact, it barely skims the surface. The key is to shift your parenting. Sounds hard, I know, but it really isn’t! Did your child just watch Super Why? Write out her name and point out each of the letters. Play a rhyming game, “Look Lily! I have a small ball! Don’t those words sound alike? What also sounds like ball? How about tall?” See? Pretty easy.
Was your little boy just watching Peg+Cat? (Another favorite of mine, since it teaches math skills.) Count each of his fingers and toes out loud to learn to count to 10 and to 20. The TV just barely cracks the door open to learning, and it is your job to open it up the rest of the way and walk through!
3. Read to your child.
Reading opens up children’s minds to so many new things. You can point out letters, colors, everyday objects, and so many other items to your younger children. Reading enables you to teach your child their ABCs with hardly any effort since the letters are right there!
Once they get a little bit older, you can help them with their memories by asking what so-and-so did on the previous page.
Or you can open their imaginations by not even reading the words, but by letting your child come up with a story on his own based off the pictures. Reading will set your child apart from so many others. A good reader, or someone who just loves reading, will have a much easier time in school than someone who can’t stand reading.
And reading can be so cheap too! You don’t even have to buy books (although I do recommend it). If you have a library nearby, just go once a week and pick out a few books, and then you and your child never have to be bored!
Reading takes more brain power than watching a screen, so if you can have a lot of reading and only a little screen time, your child’s brain will really positively grow and develop.
4. Teach always!
Children’s brains are like little sponges. I know you’ve heard that phrase before. But have you ever tried to wring out a dry sponge? Nothing comes out (obviously). It is the same with your children. If you aren’t filling up their little brains, then they won’t have any information to lean back on.
Whenever I buy toys for my children, I make sure that they have some educational value to them. When my son was about 16 months, I bought letter/number magnets, and the two of us had a ball putting them on the fridge, spelling out words, and just putting them in order. It is one of your duties as a parent to instill a love of learning within your children. Kids haven’t gotten old enough to think that learning “isn’t cool.” They want to be just like mom and dad and their older siblings. My 2-year-old son LOVES to do his “homework” next to my brother when my brother is working on his.
Are you playing outside? Count how many cars drive by!
Are you at the grocery store? Name the colors of the fruits and vegetables. Or play the alphabet game! Looking for the letters in order at the store is the #1 way to keep my son from running wild.
All this teaching really does take a bit of a mindset shift, but after a few times trying it, you’ll realize that it is not only easy, but also fun! There is nothing more satisfying to a parent than to see your child doing/saying something that YOU taught them.
5. Try to love learning yourself.
Kids learn through example. If they see you sitting on your phone or in front of the TV, they are going to want to do the same thing (I’m writing this for myself right now 😉 ). It goes for reading as well. If they see you reading a new book, they will want to be just like mom! Moms are superheroes to their children (mostly because we really ARE superheroes!).
I am someone who has always loved to listen to music while driving, but I have consciously made a decision to listen to audiobooks instead. Or if you are driving with your children, just start singing with them! Sing Old MacDonald and teach them their animal sounds, or sing the ABCs (my son’s personal favorite). It really can be fun, and although it means sacrificing one more thing that you enjoy, I promise it will pay out and you will be so happy with the end result—a happy child who loves to learn!
Teaching doesn’t have to be hard. All it takes is a parent who is being intentional. Remember though, every child learns at different rates. So don’t force your child! Learning needs to be fun at a young age. You should never make it feel like it is a chore. If children can learn to love learning while they are little, there will be an even greater chance that they will love it as they get older too.
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