Reading has always been a super high priority with me when it comes to being a mom. Our rule from the time Caroline was old enough to attend to a book (six or seven months?) was to always read to her when she asked. Even if it was inconvenient at the moment. Yes, reading to her was that important. We rarely turned her away or put her off if she brought a book to us.
This Babycenter article about How to raise a reader is really super (minus the part about the Teletubbies). LOL! No, seriously, it has excellent information. Any new moms who are feeling anxious about their child’s development should read this and take it to heart. Infants, toddlers and preschoolers don’t need tons of fancy toys. Reading to them and giving them a print and verbal rich environment is the most important thing.
Caroline was watching a video of herself today from when she was two and a half. I knew she was a verbal two year old, but now I really marvel at her vocabulary. I mean I knew it at the time, but now I see it in a whole new way. The two keys? We read to her all the time and we talked about anything and everything all the time. We used a wide adult vocabulary, expanded on what she said when she talked to us, and just generally spoke to her on a high level.
Reading ability is one of the biggest predictors of school success. The biggest gift you can give to your child is a love of books and print in general. A large vocabulary will serve your child well, too. Spend lots of time at the library and read, read, read and talk, talk, talk!
Photo is Caroline enjoying books at fifteen months. She had a huge basket of books next to her bear chair.
Several days ago Kat left a comment asking if I would share how I organize Caroline’s day, what we are doing with her learning, etc. So, for what it is worth, here is where we are right now. And this is honesty at its finest.
I am motivated. Caroline is not ready.
I feel guilty for not doing more structured things with her. Caroline is not ready.
I am tempted to feel angst over the “lost” months this summer when I was too sick to do much of anything with her except watch Pride and Prejudice (A&E) more times than I will ever publicly admit. (She was obsessed with it for quite awhile and it worked for me.) Caroline hasn’t really suffered for it except in my overly conscientious mind.
The truth of the matter is that we are very unstructured right now. Part of it is that we are just getting somewhat back to normal after me being anything but normal physically since late February. Part of it is simply that Caroline is not ready.
I read these blogs of women who do all these amazing, planned things with their children who are a similar age and am tempted to feel guilty. But Caroline is just not ready. She isn’t ready for structured learning.
This is one of those areas where I just have to trust my gut. And I also have to trust my convictions. I’ve believed for a long time that children are too over structured too early. I believe strongly in the importance of open-ended play. I really appreciate the teachings of Charlotte Mason because they reflect my own instincts about children.
We don’t read nearly as much as I would like to. For some reason, she just doesn’t respond to the idea right now. I’m not going to fight her on this so we don’t read as much as I thought we would.
So that is a little bit about what we aren’t doing. There is no structured learning going on in our house. That isn’t to say that there isn’t learning. We learn all the time. But it is much more situational and arises spur of the moment far more often than me planning that Caroline is going to work on “X” skill.
Truth be told, I am still trying to figure Caroline out. She is a mystery to me in many ways and it has been a challenge. In many ways I cannot figure out what makes her tick. It is hard for me as her mother to feel that way, especially since I am a very insightful person. But she has a complicated little personality and it has been one of the big challenges of parenting so far.
So what do we do?
We go places – Meijer Gardens, the zoo, Children’s Museum, stores, Starbucks, apple orchards, drives in the country… We have to literally drag her out of Starbucks. How great is it that she loves hanging out in a coffee shop?
We work together – loading laundry into dryer, putting things in shopping cart, cleaning the bathroom, putting laundry away, dusting, cleaning mirrors, working in the garden…
We read books and printed materials. She’s fascinated by catalogs.
We watch grown up DVDs – the exception is Baby Einstein and home DVDs. She has learned so much from Baby Einstein videos. We started watching those right before her second birthday and they have been wonderful. I plan on doing a post on that.
We listen to a lot of classical and instrumental music. When she hears something on the stereo that was in one of her Baby Einstein videos she will say, “That’s like Cow” or “That’s like on Horse!” or “That’s on Instruments!” (She identifies most of the BE videos by the animal on the cover.)
We talk about things all the time.
A little bit of “school” stuff – When I find something online that I think she will like, we do it. Totbooks, cutting and pasting activities, etc. If a teachable moment arises related to letters or words, I use it.
We use Bing video searches – This started kind of by accident, but we look up videos on Bing and she loves it. (I think she is a highly visual learner.) Daddy actually does most of this with her and they’ve learned about windmills, waterfalls, trumpets, Celtic Women Christmas, Christmas trees, dogs… Lots of things. Here are her two favorites that she has watched over and over and over again…
Here is the first favorite – Wynton Marsalis playing a Haydn Trumpet Concerto. (No, I am not making this up.) She has probably watched it several dozen times over the recent months. That is saying something considering the picture quality is not all that great. But she loves the music on the trumpet.
This is the more recent favorite. She heard Celtic Women Christmas Celebration at my parents’ house a few months ago and absolutely fell in love with their version of Ding Dong Merrily On High. We found the video online and she loves it. When she hears it on CD, whatever she is doing immediately stops and she starts dancing around the room.
I’m sure there are other things that will come to mind, but this is a bit about where we are right now. I am guessing maybe this winter we will get into a little more structure. Maybe. Maybe not. I know there is no way she would be ready for preschool right now. We’ll just continue to do things here as they seem appropriate and have fun in the process.
This summer I introduced Do-A-Dot Rainbow Art Set Paints to Caroline. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she LOVED them. She’s used them regularly ever since.
I purchased a few of the books such as Do-A-Dot Discovering My World Activity Book and have been making copies of the pages that interest her. (That way the books last a lot longer and I’m within the copyright permissions in the book.) I also give her plain paper at times so she can be creative and do her own designs.
I like that they allow her to be creative without creating a huge mess. Bonus for everyone!
I mentioned this idea the other day and that it was on my to do list with Caroline. We had to make an unexpected trip to Home Depot last evening for some things so it gave me the opportunity to pick up a few paint chip cards and make this!
Caroline likes to point out “matches” so I was pretty confident she would find it interesting. And I knew she would like the basket I found in my “hang onto it for something” stash. I wasn’t sure if she would be able to manipulate the clothespins. She wasn’t. She immediately set to the task of matching the colors, but couldn’t figure out how to get the clothespins on there. And she was only moderately interested in any instruction on how to do so.
So we’ll see how this goes later in the day and tomorrow. I may just put it away for another month and get it out again later.
Truth be told, Caroline doesn’t watch any network TV. She does watch DVDs. She enjoys Baby Einstein videos and will also sit down and watch something if we have it on (think A&E Pride and Prejudice). But her current obsession – and I do mean obsession – is watching DVDs of herself.
David copies all our home videos onto DVD so we can easily watch them without having to run it through the camcorder. Caroline is ENTHRALLED with watching us on TV. She calls them “Baby Caroline”. We call them CTV.
Yesterday, we brought up a tote of toys for rotation. Caroline had pulled everything out of the tote and the living room floor looked, um, pretty trashed. She looked up at me and said, “There’s stuff strewn all over in here.”
Strewn? Yes, strewn.
And where did she pick that up? From David on one of the videos. He’s talking about a toy mess when she was under a year and described it just that way. She’s seen that scene more than a few times and obviously picked it up.
I do think Caroline is quite far ahead of the curve in terms of language development for only being twenty-eight months old. I attributed it to the fact that she spends all day with two gabby adults and we read a lot to her. David mentioned last night after the strewn comment that she probably is also learning a lot by watching those family DVDs. And, I have to admit that I was glad to see something positive coming out of it beyond just being entertained and engaged for a bit each day.
A great way to reinforce your current theme during calendar time! Set of 32 unnumbered fact cards that slide behind your calendar date cards. Use them at any time and in any order. Apples and Pumpkins themes available now with more coming in the next several weeks. Click on the image for more info!
Nine fun learning activities for first and second grade!
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Caroline and Sallie approved! We love ABC Mouse!
Also available here in 3x3 and 5x5. Click on the image for more info!