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Academics for toddlers - WDYT?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Should I feel guilty for having no alphabet books, letters, or TV with educational components in my house until after 2? Would you feel like you were letting your child down? We visited the preschool (2-3 year old class) today, and when I asked "do you do worksheets and letters and things", what answer would YOU have wanted to hear?

Just wondering the range of opinions and reasons for them - I know I've seen someone on here who was very excited to teach a baby to read, and at the opposite end I suppose Waldorf people don't teach written language until age 7. I'm not asking a question about me or my child, but about what choices you make, and why.
post #2 of 31
How about a poll?

In our house, we DO have all those letters on the wall, etc. But we are total book hounds and my DH is a math geek so he really wanted DD to learn some numbers! She loves learning them and at almost 4, is close to learning to read already. We don't do it because we want her to be "advanced" - we just think it's fun. (She is in fact language delayed and it's great for her to get a sense of accomplishment in an area other folks appreciate....) I don't really care if she reads or does math early or late - but we just like to share our learning with her....

In a preschool I look for rich social experiences and hands on learning. My DD's preschool is nicknamed the "art and dirt" school because the kids come back covered in paint, dirt, you name it! So I know she had a blast. They don't put a value on sitting quietly or doing fine motor things yet...and they work from an "8 intelligences" perspective to see the strengths of each child. I love the preschool totally - but it wasn't enough support for my DD.

She also attends a SN preschool where they work on issues like paying attention and working quietly/fine motor skills (and language development)...but she needs extra support with those issues. I initially wasn't happy about her having to attend that school (in fact I cried when I first visited it) but it has made a dramatic difference for her...so I now see the value of that type of school for some kids. And she loves the structure. I've since learned that many kids with her delays don't do well in "free play" environments (Waldorf would have been a disaster) and require more "facilitated play" environments - which is what her SN preschool is. She always kind of drifted around the edges of her art and dirt school. At the SN preschool, she is a star pupil and advancing rapidly in social and language skills.

I really think it depends on your kid and what kind of learner they are.

does that answer it?
post #3 of 31
I don't think such educational paraphernalia is important, certainly not under age 2! I have more of an unschooling philosophy and think that people learn best from plunging into life (as opposed to workbooks, for example).

That said, we have lots of alphabet books, and other educational things (my dd is 3 years old on Sunday) and I have been teaching her letters and numbers and time telling and reading, etc for years, because it seems to arise naturally and be a fun thing to explore.

So I don't think it would at all handicap a child not to have them, nor vice versa. I'm not sure what I would want to see in a preschool. I plan to keep my kids at home because I think it will be more valuable than school, so hard to imagine what I would want out of a school if I was sending my kids there . . .

That's my take! I think a poll would be a good idea too!
post #4 of 31
Private schooler here - arts integrated curriculum.

DS: 7 1/2 years old. Reading like an OBSESSED champ as of this summer at the age of 7. I bought the Bob books when he was 4 or 5; he hated the primer concept, drug his feet, and did not/would not read willingly (or even minimally well) until he was 7. Then he decided it would be fun or good or whatever and just took to it. Jumped four or five grade levels in a couple months.

DD: 4 1/3 (or so) years old. Entertained herself at an adult event by having her dad spell SATURDAY for her so she could remember and write the letters. She'll be f'ing *writing* Harlequin romances next year, given her love of pink and her language abilities.

Same school for both kids. Both (roughly) equivalent intelligence. Both going to be just fine.

So my personal thoughts, based upon what I have read (which may be biased because I'm a big fan of play and outside time) is that for children with no learning issues that academics can and should come later. It gets serious quickly enough that we don't need to rush them.
post #5 of 31
Dh and I are big readers, so we ALWAYS have books around. I have read here that some kids can't handle "reading" books at a young age, but my ds has always been fine with sitting through a story (has to be short, of course).

We are learning the alphabet now (ya know, the song!), and counting (the other night my 2.5 yo counted from 1-10 in the correct order without leaving any numbers out! I was proud!), and working on colors.

But honestly, it's SO not planned. As we go through the day, we'll count things, or point out colors, etc.

My friend lives with her mom and dad and has 2 ds'. They have FLASH CARDS for the boys. This started at ONE YEAR OLD.

To me, that's excessive.

I'm of the opinion that children need to be allowed to be children. They shouldn't have to learn so much, so quickly, and there shouldn't be so much pressure on learning.

I think the reason ds likes books so much is because dh and I obviously like them and incorporate them into everyday life. So, he will probably view reading as a fun activity, not a chore.

OP: Do what YOU feel is right and best for YOUR kids, and screw weird-o preschools who guarantee that if your kid goes there s/he will become a doctor!
post #6 of 31
I wouldcertainly not want this pushed ni a preschool setting. We do have some counting bokos and abc books ust cause they are fun but i would never actively teach my todler academics. there are just so many other important things they need to learn right now.
post #7 of 31
We do have some academic stuff: alphabet and counting books, a Fridge Phonics set, a Phonics Firefly left over from when I taught in a preschool, a puzzle with some numbers on it, Leap Frog Letter Factory dvd. That kinda stuff. But it's in no way pushed. We read a lot, and talk about letters/ numbers sometimes, usually as a way to distract them in the car when they're bored or cranky.

But I would be horrified if a preschool for 2 yr olds had worksheets. And while I wouldn't be horrified, I'd choose another place if it had worksheets for four yr olds. I'm a big fan of art and dirt and pretend play at preschool. One exception would be Montessori; I do like Montessori, but more for the practical life and normalization benefits than the academic. But your ordinary preschool? I absolutely do not want academics there. One thing to count how many crackers they have at snack informally/ compare who has more, talk about letters in name, etc. But to have a formal curriculum that focuses on letters and numbers instead of conflict resolution and kids' own interests and playing outside and singing songs and doing art? No way.
post #8 of 31
My dk's are 3.5 (ds) and 2.5 (dd). We have loads of alphabet games, flash cards, posters, number magnets, etc that they both play with ALL THE TIME.

DH is a part time book seller, and we are always taking the kids to estate sales where daddy buys 1,000 books (we probably take the kids and do this about twice a month). DH and I are always reading, and ds especially LOVES to be read to. He already asks us to read books like the Magic Treehouse series and The Boxcar Children. He told me he wants to read a book by himself for his 4th birthday, thus all the alphabet paraphenalia.

Honestly, I think it is easier to pass the time by looking at letters in a book or playing with the alphabet magnets, or even mucking around with crayons on some worksheets! : Worksheets are not inherently bad. I mean, what we do is just a bunch or coloring, which my dd has loved to do since she was 18 months old.

All that said, if you are not into the whole alphabet thing, go with it. To each his or her own, I say. Your two year old doesn't know her alphabet? Big deal. She knows how to play and have fun, which is what she is SUPPOSED to do at 2. If my kids weren't having fun learning letters and alphabet stuff, I would certainly quickly abondon it.
post #9 of 31
DD (not quite 2.5) goes to Montessori school very PT so people have asked me if I do worksheets or flashcards with her and I just laugh and laugh. At home we do practical life stuff like cooking, cleaning, playing with cars. I did buy a set of flashcards once because she was into different shapes and it had cards with different shapes and colors and I was too lazy to cut them out (besides, they were $2). She threw them all over the place and then would find one and bring it to me asking "what's this?" I would tell her purple octagon or whatever and then she would throw it. In other words, she likes 52 card pickup.
post #10 of 31
Should I feel guilty for having no alphabet books, letters, or TV with educational components in my house until after 2?

Nope. You aren't obligated to do everything like everyone else. How else do people have personal style or uniqueness if we are all cookie cutter copies of each other?

Ours wasn't allowed to watch TV til she turned two, and we started her on home movies of herself. She still likes that.

Would you feel like you were letting your child down?

No. Providing play things (ex: Links, blocks), reading to them, and exploring the home is more than enough before two. They are learning to talk, motor skills, pretend play-- all kinds of stuff.

We visited the preschool (2-3 year old class) today, and when I asked "do you do worksheets and letters and things", what answer would YOU have wanted to hear?

I want to hear they have open ended exploration time. You want to learn to sing the ABC's -- fine. But I don't want her going hot and heavy at it at 2 unless she indicates an interest.

At 2 she liked playing with chunky alphabet magnet letters as magnets... she didn't care that they were letters before.

Mine is now currently 3 and 7 mos and she is anxious "to read the words" because "reading the pictures" no longer satisfies her. It seriously frustrates her because she's burning to know how so she is not dependent on someone else to read it to her. She figured out letters MEAN something. But prior to this phase we weren't pushing teaching her to read and she didn't care.

So it depends on the worksheets they have in the 2-3 year old daycare class what my reaction would be. If they are like the Kumon Jr books that just teach basics like cutting paper, using glue, using crayons -- peachy.

If the teacher wants to make Monday sticker day and has a mess of foam stickers, flat stickers, puffy stickers... great! Worksheets where it a picture of a garden plot and the stickers are vegetables you are supposed to "plant" -- great! It is open ended, motor skill stuff. There is no "right" way to plant the sticker garden, you know?

If Tuesday is Scissor day and she lays out white paper, construction paper, fabric, sand paper, string and all kinds of things to cut -- great. Want to throw a worksheet in there where you try to cut the page in half along a dotted line? Why not?

If the worksheet is trying to teach more formal reading, math, writing -- it's too much too soon for my tastes. 2-3 years old STILL a lot of exploring and they will get more than enough "busy work type" worksheets in grade school. I don't want to burn her out early.

But I do want her to explore art tools likes paints, scissors, crayons, markers, stickers etc.

post #11 of 31

Not for us

My youngest two are possibly gifted and we did NOT do academics. We read tons of books but other than that we just followed their interests.

My second son loved to "roll acorns". It's exactly what it sounds like We rolled acorns. It was his favorite activity as a toddler.

So lots of reading, art activities (drawing, painting, Playdoh), cooking, outdoor play, toys (many were "character" toys even) and we even watched TV.

Both kids picked up letters and basic addition on their own before they started school.

My oldest ds is average but also doing well in school.
post #12 of 31
Originally Posted by wannabe View Post
Should I feel guilty for having no alphabet books, letters, or TV with educational components in my house until after 2? Would you feel like you were letting your child down?

I don't introduce academics to my children at this age, but I do read to them a lot. We do allow TV, but I don't pick shows based on academic values, just on appropriate content. My Kids like Mr Rogers, Clifford, Curious George etc on PBS.

We visited the preschool (2-3 year old class) today, and when I asked "do you do worksheets and letters and things", what answer would YOU have wanted to hear?

I would RUN quickly from any school that did worksheets in preschool. I looked for a play based preschool that focuses on learning through play, all hands on, process instead of product based art etc. We found a great parent co-op that met my expectations.

Just wondering the range of opinions and reasons for them - I know I've seen someone on here who was very excited to teach a baby to read, and at the opposite end I suppose Waldorf people don't teach written language until age 7. I'm not asking a question about me or my child, but about what choices you make, and why.

I follow my childrens lead. My daughter started asking about the letters in her name just before her 3rd birthday so I taught them to her. If she had not asked then, I would have waited till she seemed ready.
my answers are above in bold
post #13 of 31
I don't like to see learning pushed on preschoolers. So far, I've just followed my kids leads. DD has had magnetic letters since she was very little, but we didn't really do anything with them, except let her stick them on the fridge!

DD became very fascinated with reading (someone is always reading around here) and writing at a very early age...about 1.5. She started taking pens and making squiggles on paper. About a year or so later (age 2.5 or thereabouts), she started asking how to spell her name, and asking for help on making letters. She likes to add extra letters to her name, or run her name into her baby brother's and pretend it's a new name - things like that. She knows her alphabet, and can print all the capital letters and many of the lower case...but this has all been her idea. We're just following her lead.

DS2...he's just two. He's not very verbal. Right now, he's into colour names, and comparing things (eg. he'll bring me two truck toys, and want me to name them by difference...colour, size, wheel colour, style, whatever). So...we're just following his lead, too. We've concentrated on saying words to him, because he's somewhat verbally delayed, but he also enjoys that. His favourite game in the world is to hold two things up to me, and get me to name them, then continue to alternate hands....then go back and forth really fast, so I end up saying "white-purple-white-purple-white-purple" over and over again.

I'm rambling. I wouldn't want to see my kids in preschool that used workbooks. Mind you, I've honestly always found the concept of "preschool" kind of weird. I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I think of home as being the only "pre" schooling a child needs. Otherwise, it's either school or it's not..."preschool" just seems like a meaningless term to me.
post #14 of 31
Originally Posted by wannabe View Post
We visited the preschool (2-3 year old class) today, and when I asked "do you do worksheets and letters and things", what answer would YOU have wanted to hear?
Well, I would have wanted to hear "NO! We let the children follow their interests and we have a lot of fun and imaginative toys and activities available for them."

My daughter attends what you might call a "play-based" daycare part-time (meaning they don't have a set curriculum, they don't drill on letters/numbers/colors or do worksheets, and they don't have pre-packaged kinds of art projects, just art materials available) and it seems to me that all of the kids are more than ready for kindergarten by age 5. They focus on supporting the children in developing all of their learning areas (gross motor, fine motor, arts, language, math, etc.) through play and other activities of the day such as mealtimes (for example, learning math concepts by measuring out the milk at lunch) and helping the children successfully resolve conflicts and develop a problem-solving orientation. Her previous day care had a "curriculum" (i.e. this week is "Farm week", we're learning the color red, we're talking about the sounds that animals make) and I much prefer her current, more creative and free-flowing environment. BUT...it's a good fit for our family and kid, and perhaps not for everyone.
post #15 of 31
I started my son off in Waldorf nursery .. and in my ideal world my son would still be there. I loved the beauty and rythmn, and I wanted my son to develop his social skills and imagination, not learn to read so early on.

He was bored and unhappy there. They would tell these long, beautiful circle stories for a month at a time .. both of his teachers told me how he was very bright and would learn the entire story before the first week was over. By the end of the month he was bored to tears in circle time. Then he started asking me to teach him to read (and was somewhat already learning on his own).

So we tried a preschool/daycare for the summer that was much more traditional and taught reading, had worksheets, etc. After Waldorf I was really turned off by this school, but we gave it a try. My son LOVES it, so much that I've kept him there for this next year. Everything *I* thought I didn't want in preschool for him, he's loving. He thrives on the structure, he learned how to read in a matter of weeks and looks forward to doing worksheets, etc. He loves school and for whatever reason, this strict, structured environment is a better fit for him than Waldorf.

I personally think preschool should be totally optional and if the kid wants to go, it should be play based. But here I am with my kid in a structured preschool program that I thought I would HATE. And we love it. So I guess in the end I think you need to do whatever is the best fit for your kid .. mine thrives off those stupid worksheets.
post #16 of 31
post #17 of 31
I taught preschool for several years (2.5-4 yo kids) - and I did NOT do worksheets with my kids. I am a big believer in learning thru play and in incidental learning (learning stuff thru every day exposure).

I did LOTS of arts and crafts. I incorporated learning into my art and games. I'd pick a theme for the week - like caterpillars and butterflies. ANd we would do stuff in that theme like: reading books about caterpillars (Very hungry Caterpillar by ERic Carle), fingerplays about caterpillars and butterflies, making butterfly finger puppets and flying around the room, using playsilks and classical music to butterfly dance/fly, learning symmetry with butterfly print (cut out the paper, paint on one side, fold and press), caterpillar numbers (different colors circles each number 1-5 that kids glued together and then added as many legs, etc as they liked wherever they chose), egg cartons cut into various sized catepillars that we painted and decorated (and counted the "bumps" on). I also made a huge posterboard of the Very Hungry Caterpillar book with a caterpillar and butterfly cutouts and made holes in all the foods - so the kids could use the posterboard and cutouts to retell the story. It had great opportunities for incident learning about foods, colors, numbers, and science. I also got a bug box so we could watch the caterpillars grow, change into butterflies, and then release then in the playground.

So they were learning - but they were learning language, math, science, social, motor - all while they created stuff and played.

DS - he is a little over 2. I provide him with only open ended play stuff. He has blocks, puppets, kitchen stuff, trucks, baby dolls, art supplies, etc. I limit the electronic stuff (we have almost none - even gifts get donated). I also limit what TV he watches. I did not want him to have any TV - it has been proven to delay language development in young children, it can lead to desensitization to violence and snarky behavior, and it can lead to children not getting enough exercise. DH started letting DS watch TV on weekends while I worked - so I made a rule, one hour in the am and pm, and only approved shows - which in our house is Sesame St, Barney, and Blues Clues. I like the educational content of these shows - on all levels not just ABCs and 123s, but the social/emotional development content. Due to my pickiness, we have tons of appropriate DVDs. Usually, DS has a video on, but is busy playing blocks or reading - he listens to it while he plays other stuff.

He also has a TON of books. Almost a whole bookshelf full. Reading is very important to me. I started reading to DS in utero, and began reading to him in arms while still in the hospital. DS LOVES books. We go to the mall, he will bypass the toystore and drag us to the bookstore, begging for more books. it makes me really proud. Again, no character books. Just really good books. We have animal books, ABC books, number books, etc. A little bit of everything. he picks out whatever he feels like reading, whenever he wants - which is quite often.

Anytime he shows an interest in something - I try to provide him more of that subject. I feel like I'd be holding him back if I didn't give him more play materials on a subject he enjoyed and was really interested in. I remember feeling really bored and stifled as early as 2nd grade - and I never want that for him. I don't teach him - just provide learning opportunities for him to do as he will with.

He has been obsessed with ABCs and number books and toys for about 6-8 months now. So we keep buying him more books, puzzles, fridge magnets, etc. I do not quiz him, give him worksheets, or anything like that. But before he turned 2 - he could recognize all his letters when asked, and he named most of them as he read his books or played his magnets/puzzles. He also knows 1-10 (except 7) and loves to point out the numbers on store displays and registers. Now he discovered upper and lowercase, so he is obsessed with that. He will spend all day sitting with his magnadoodle ordering me to draw such and such letter - big and little versions of course.

Like I said before - it isn't about structure lessons or "teaching" - just providing him with learning opportunities as he shows interest. I personally feel like I would be doing him a disservice if I didn't provide him with opportunities and educational materials, but also a disservice if I sat him down with worksheets or flashcards.
post #18 of 31


Edited by RainCoastMama - 2/25/14 at 10:57pm
post #19 of 31
Originally Posted by mistymama View Post
So I guess in the end I think you need to do whatever is the best fit for your kid .. mine thrives off those stupid worksheets.
I think that sums it up - every child is different and for most of them there isn't ONE right answer.

But I had to laugh at the "thriving on worksheets" quote. One of the longterm families in our very NON-academic school unexpectedly had to leave the school two months before the end of first grade, move to a different state, live in a rental, then their own home and THEN start a new second grade class in a very traditional public school.

When we heard from her mom the second grader was just thrilled because she finally got to do worksheets!
post #20 of 31
No, I don't think you should feel guilty.

Little kids learn all the time! They watch us, listen to us, learn to read by being read to etc. I see no reason in the world to worry about accademics with a toddler. They learn at their own pace almost no matter what we do.
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