I had my first preschool "Playtime" class at my house this last week and fell instantly in love with these little two's and nearly three's. I had forgotten how much I love that age and miss their cute little voices and questions. It took me back to my own little munchkins at that age and how I was a mother to them.
In preparing for this class, I have thought a lot about the little minds of those tender years. They are sponges. They are soaking it all in and they crave information. They constantly ask questions and although it may drive a mother crazy, they are thirsty to know all the mysteries of life. It is our job to feed those little minds, to unload our knowledge into their inquiring minds as the window of opportunity allows. The brain of a child absorbs the most information from birth to the age of 7. After that, learning is different; slower. I am a firm believer in talking to your children all the time - pouring information into their cute heads. It is more than reading a story at bedtime, it is constantly feeding them words and mental pictures.
To create a captive audience of busy one, two's and three's, you need to form a bit of a distraction. When you change diapers, they are at your mercy. I would choose this opportunity to name the body parts with them. By the time they were out of diapers, they knew everything from where there ears were to the clavicle and sternum. Why limit them to eyes, ears and noses? They are capable of so much more if we allow it. When they are trapped in a car seat, they are ripe for information. Talk about the colors of the street lights; the letters of the stop sign, colors of cars, etc. Turn off the radio and cell phones. They should never be learning about colors for the first time in kindergarten. I am always surprised that in kindergarten, they have to teach colors during the year. They are 5 for pete's sake. They have had 5 years to learn that. Our jobs.
For my little playtime class, I pulled out the old tricks. It is no secret that two-year-olds have ants in their pants. To get them to sit for a few minutes and learn is always tricky. I pulled out the little, round bean bags and passed them around to each child. I put it on their heads and told them to hold out their arms and balance it. They thought that was a great game. Now, they were still. Their eyes were on me and they didn't move so the bean bag would stay in its place. We then looked at letter flash cars and colors. They repeated with me what they saw. At the end, I performed my greatest stand up act ever; the dramatic sneeze which flung the bean bag off my head with gusto. They giggled hysterically like I had just told the best joke ever. They all did the same thing and we had to '"sneeze" several more times. Little did they know that it was all just a ploy to get their attention. Great trick.
Constantly naming items, labeling their colors, beginning letters of the word and counting objects all help their brains process and learn. It helps their brains start to see words instead of just seeing a picture. For instance, when they see a toy car, if you have labeled it with them many times and given it the letters, C-A-R, when they see that toy, they will see the letters in their head. This will help them read when it is time and give them that advantage later. I learned in a speed reading class that our mind can see a word and know it instead of having to look at each letter and think about the sound that it makes. By knowing a word, you can look at it and instantly know what it means. When you are old enough to know lots of words, you can just look at a whole sentence at a time and know what it means without looking at each individual word. Try it sometime. When I learned that, I could read a book in about 1/3 the time and completely comprehend what I read. That saved me in some college classes. Teaching little ones this trick early on can dramatically help their reading skills and we can start this by teaching them how the word looks by labeling their world around them. They do this with autistic kids all the time since their minds work a little differently. You will often find an autistic classroom with labels everywhere; a light switch, a door, a table, etc. --- all with words spelled out and attached to the item. Most of the time, we wait to teach children how a word is spelled until they are ready to read. Why not teach them early on so when they are ready to read, they already know a multitude of words?
I think we undersell these little minds. If we feed them in abundance when they are little, they will have a much bigger appetite when they are older. They will crave information and they will learn how to process it.
How I miss a little two year old in my home. I am so glad I get to have a play date once a week to get my fill. Thanks for sharing them!