Raising children can be exhausting, and confusing. There is so much information. However, when parents and grandparents sift through it, some principles survive through the decades.
For more information see grandparentsteachtoo.org and wnmu.org pod casts “Learning Through the Seasons.”
The key to learning is talking with children from birth.
Some studies suggest talking to babies when they are in the uterus. This is calming and quiet talk. Tell them about your day. Tell them how much you love them.
Once babies are born the key to early learning is more talking — the more the better — 3 million words before school. With parent-to-child talk, even little, high-pitched short sentences are important.
Here are some examples: “Feel Teddy’s tummy. It’s so soft! Trucks make loud noises. Look, there is a yellow one. Oh, you’re crying. Baby feels hungry? Now Daddy is opening the refrigerator. I’ll get you something to eat. You’ll feel better soon. Is it time to change your diaper? Oh yes, Grandpa thinks we need to change your diaper. Let’s go to the changing table and put on a new diaper.”
There is complete focus on the baby here.
William Staso states in his book that children should be spoken to as if they understood every word you were saying. In the beginning months your baby will not understand the words you say — but there is much about your voice patterns and the word sounds you make that are important. Good foundations of language begin shortly after birth and affect the brain for a lifetime.
Sometimes adults have trouble beyond giving children directions like, “Eat your peas.” The city of Providence, R.I., just received a $5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to teach families to put down smart phones, turn off DVD’s and computers, carry on family conversations while doing simple fun activities, and read out loud.
Activities like art, going for a stroll, and playing together with figures, cars, and blocks on the floor naturally lead to family conversations.
When adults can’t think of anything else to say, this is a good time to reach for a book and begin reading.
Esther Macalady is a former teacher, who lives in Golden, and participates in the Grandparents Teach Too writing group.