Several years ago before Scott and I were married I was sitting in the San Francisco International Airport waiting for my flight back to Chicago. I sat across from a family, they seemed typical San Francisco. The mom had frizzy unstyled hair and was wearing some form of outdoorsy casual shoe (probably made by Keen or Merrell) the dad was Asian, bespectacled, and only mildly interested. She had two toddlers with her, over and over again she whipped educational toy after educational toy. Once the boy finished with his game of chess that he was playing with his father out came the book in French, then the all wood puzzles that looked like they were purchased at the SFMOMA, and then came out coloring books of biological systems. I kept thinking, 'relax lady, let them have fun. Everything does not need to be educational.' In watching her I decided to play it easy with pushing academics on my future children.
I made alphabet flash cards. That's right I made my own alphabet flash cards. As I was doing it I kept thinking, 'You know Lara you can buy these.' Then I would think,'eh, Alco probably doesn't sell them,' and I kept going. Why would I make alphabet flash cards for my 15 month old kid? Here's my logic. She is in the beginning of speech, she babbles, saying the same sound over and over again. I think she is still not in full control of her mouth and what comes out of it. When I would isolate a sound for her, one that she was already saying like, 'dah,' and say it for her. Trying to show her, 'look you can do this on purpose' her little mouth and tongue would wiggle around like she was trying to get it, but couldn't quite do it.
She can already identify pictures in books, and tell me where the duck is on the page. So I thought what if I gave her the symbol for the sound to anchor the sound and give more meaning to her babbling.
I wasn't sure if this idea was way too early for her, but I thought, 'why not, if it is we'll put them aside and try again later.' I finished them, colored them, and then laminated them.
I thought I would just pop one in my back pocket and whip it out a couple times a day and say the phonetic noise, very distinctly while holding it up next to my mouth. I started on Wednesday with 'O.' I only showed it to her about three times that day. Each time she was engrossed but said or did nothing. That night I tossed the card on the old church pew in our living room and thought, 'oh well maybe it will show up later.' Within minutes she had grabbed it and was doing toddler laps around the living room saying,
"Ooooooooooo, oooooooo, OOOO!" I couldn't believe it. I was so excited, it actually worked. Since then I have done d, m, and i. Last night in her triumphant parade of phonics she was actually combining o and i, while holding the respective cards.
The only reason I did this whole alphabet thing was because I thought it would help her, a significant part of me thought it would completely not work. I won't push it, I will only offer it.
I think this whole experience has taught me that it's important to pay attention to when your child is ready. Don't introduce a concept or activity until you see evidence that she is ready, by displaying foundational skills. Like when Emma would attemp to copy by moving her lips. Educational games aren't bad, and honestly I think my little kiddo likes to learn, but, again, there is a balance between fun and learning.
And sometimes learning is fun.