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How do I encourage my toddler w/o 'pushing' her?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I want to encourage my 18 month-old dd's interests without 'pushing' her into learning academic concepts just to learn them. I don't know if she is 'gifted' or not - but I thought I'd post here because I appreciate all you mamas view points about encouraging your child's natural inclinations without pushing them.

In the last month my 18 month-old dd has really seemed to develop an interest in counting/numbers and learning her alphabet (among other things). It came as suprise because neither my dh or I have really exposed to her either of these in a direct way.

About a month ago, out of the blue she counted to 6, then the next day counted to 8, and then a couple of days after she counted to 10. Since then she has been counting things around the house, in stores, on the road, etc. She can even count to 5 in Korean (my mom, a Korean speaker, was visiting for a week in Feb. I'm sure this is where she picked it up, but my mom really didn't count in Korean to her as a lesson or anything). My question is, do I just let her count things. Or should I help her along, if she is interested, should I play number games with her?

She apparently knows her alphabet too, and knows more and more letters as the days go by. She has shown interest in graphic letters for awhile (two months maybe), but lately she stops and points to letters and names them.

I want to encourage her natural curiousities and don't want to just memorize a bunch of things just to say she "knows" her numbers, letters, etc. Does this make sense? Also, what are some fun, age appropriate ways to encourage her - games, songs, activities, etc.? I hope this is the right forum to post these questions to. TIA!
post #2 of 14
I'm no expert, but I'd suggest just making learning opportunities available to her. For example, there are a lot of toddler books that are about counting and the alphabet. Make sure you have some of these and let her know they are there, reading them when she wants you to. When you put away groceries and she's standing next to you, count the items as you put them away, name the colors on the stoplight, just little things like that. If she loses interest she'll let you know. Sitting her down with flashcards (unless she asks of course) is "pushing" imo, but making daily activities learning opportunities is great!
post #3 of 14
It isn't particularly a surprise that kids would express an interest in this because it is all over our culture and all over anything directed at children from books to videos.

It seems like she's learning fine without you directing it, so why change what is working?
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Roar View Post
It seems like she's learning fine without you directing it, so why change what is working?

I guess this is what I am struggling with, I guess it is "working" in the sense that these are concepts that she will eventually have to learn. But, I really just want to create a space for her where she feels stimulated without worrying about an end result. One of my biggest frustrations as a child her age was not knowing how to get to the "next step" of an interest because my parents (who did the best they could) didn't really know how to make those opportunities, or didn't take me seriously. Also, for me, this age is so cool, they are learning so much so fast -- but I don't want to make something natural and fun a chore for her. I shy away from those books (we don't watch t.v.) that seem to push reading and numbers. It's crazy at this age.

There are lots of things my dd has expressed interest in and I know how to encourage w/out making them a "chore" - e.g. when my dd showed interest in trains, we got her a small train set, have taken her on a little train ride the local zoo. DD likes flowers too, so on our walks we stop and smell them in our neighbors yards, we'll plant some seeds in the coming weeks, etc.. These sorts of interests I know how to encourage without feeling overbearing....

For some reason I am having a harder time knowing how to encourage her and create opportunities for her interests in letters and counting. I just wanted to know how other parents gently create opportunties because I feel stumped.

Sunshine J - I might pick up a couple books on counting, if I can find ones that are age appropriate. The only book she has now that has a concept of counting is "The Hungary Caterpillar".
post #5 of 14
There are lots of sweet books for little ones that include a counting theme. I like Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh (She's also done Mouse Paint). Many of the Richard Scary books, like The Best Word Book Ever have a page or two of counting. The DK books and board books have several counting books that have different themes (we had Baby 1-2-3 and Baseball 1-2-3) My two-year-old is mad for trains, and we have a book with great photos called All Aboard ABC by Doug Magee and Robert Newman.

The fact is that counting books and alphabet books are a great way to organize art or other creative adult work, so there are some really well done alphabet and counting books out there. You can pick something that introduces letters and numbers but also has other interest and value without worrying about "pushing" anyone.
post #6 of 14
I think that it's actually less difficult to match her interests if you're aware that it's an issue. It's pretty easy to watch what she's interested in, get a few books from the library and see if they spark more interest. She's going to learn the most from daily living at this age anyway.

We have some books by DK publishing called "My very first math" "my very first word book". They also publish an ABC book and a whole bunch of books -- I like them because they have real pictures in them and are visually very interesting for kids. Storybooks are a great way to prepare kids for reading, get some good rhyming books, and lots and lots of books. But I wouldn't focus solely on books.

Get some ABC puzzles, some number puzzles. And watch what she asks to do. If she's interested in counting, count out things with her. See if she can give you 3 cheerios (remember that reciting numbers is different from recognizing that 3 labels a quantity). Have a "red' day where you wear red and you eat red foods and draw pictures with red. Or have letter days where you eat foods with 'b' (OK, 'qu' gets interesting), go somewhere 'b', find all the 'b' things in the house. By doing this kind of thing, you'll naturally give her the building blocks that she needs to move on, and you'll have fun!
post #7 of 14
Great questions. My dd who has really strong verbal skills was very interested in reading, abcs, etc. between 10 and16 months she also knew how to count to 20 in both english and spanish by 20 months. For the reading, I would read her lots and lots of books - and don't go by what is necessarily "age appropriate" - we read her Magic School Bus books when dd was two. She loves science, animals, fantasy books so we have always read to her a variety of books on those subjects. Now, of course, some she reads herself and some we read to her. If I come across passages that she likely does not quite understand, I explain them to her a bit and then she usually puts it into her own words to make sure she understands. The only thing I wish I had done was more enrichment with math. I would have her count things, sorting, matching, etc. All very simple, not pushy at all. You can just have fun with her doing numbers stuff - she is already showing interest - just go with what seems fun.

Oh, and I second books from DK publishing. DD loves the Eyewitness books.
post #8 of 14
I think you've gotten lots of great suggestions here. Regarding the issue of pushing-- I wouldn't worry too much about it. Introduce things you think are fun, drop them if she's not interested or doesn't have the patience for it. Choose based on what you think she'll enjoy, not what some book says kids her age should be doing. I think it takes a lot determination to push a toddler, you won't do it accidentally. And don't be surprised if her progress is inconsistent and there is occasional back-sliding. Sometimes kids get wrapped up in learning something new, and they temporarily forget old skills.


post #9 of 14
If she were interested in painting, would you buy her tools or would you keep them away from her? Of course you would buy her paint and painting tools and show her art, so why wouldn't you share letters and numbers and reading?

Would you sit her at the table to practice painting until she was sobbing? Of course you wouldn't sit her at a table until she had produced enough "paintings", and you won't force her to recite her letters until she hates them, etc. Just relax and have fun with your child. Learn about the world in all its glory, all over again! Play and play some more.
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Wow, what great ideas...I am so glad I asked for help.

I bought dd a DK publishing sticker "work" book yesterday at the near-by Target. She LOVES it and has been playing with it with me and alone all morning. I'll go to a bigger bookstore and/or library later today or tomorrow to find more books. Bird Girl, SkySunSea, & LynnS thank you for the book suggestions!

zeldamomma - thanks for brining us the prospect of back-sliding. She's done this before with other developmental leaps. I'll make sure and it that in mind as she and I explore letters and numbers.

cdahlgrd - you are right, I will relax and just enjoy playing with her.
post #11 of 14
Isaoma, happy to help. I think you hit something right on the head. It's all about "creating a space for her where she feels stimulated without worrying about an end result." It's when we worry about the end result or create stress that's a problem. Having a stimulating environment is certainly not a problem.
post #12 of 14
My DD seemed interested so I followed her lead. She picked out books she wanted to look at. We had books about the alphabet and numbers. I tended to talk constantly to her and count items and shoes and fingers.

She would point out "letters" such as 'O' in a loop of telephone wire or a 'V' in the shape of a fence support. I acknowledged her interest and then we kept on truckin'.

She learns a lot just by listening. If she's not interested, no big deal. We move on to something else she finds more enjoyable.

She wrote her name several months ago -- at a little over age 2 -- and I was shocked. I never taught her that. It's been months and she hasn't done that since. I find it's normal for her to be really interested in something and then she drops it for a bit and then picks it up later.

Like a pp said, why not encourage her if this is where her interest lies? I think learning about the alphabet and numbers it totally normal. We used to read Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton. DD loves the rhymes and the book helped her learn numbers and that the numbers stood for something.
post #13 of 14
Originally Posted by SkySunSea View Post
Isaoma, happy to help. I think you hit something right on the head. It's all about "creating a space for her where she feels stimulated without worrying about an end result." It's when we worry about the end result or create stress that's a problem. Having a stimulating environment is certainly not a problem.
For me I tried to always keep in mind what the next step would be in a developmental area and have that available ahead of time, whether it would be slightly more challenging book or puzzle or more advanced art supplies or a more advanced board game or more legos because she was using up almost all the blocks in her creations.

I agree with just talking about stuff in daily life. We, too, would count a lot. Especially counting to 20 or 30 or 100 until we were home. All kinds of things. We read a lot. Did mini word puzzles with pictures so the word was just extra until it clicked. I believe a print-rich environment is important so children can study these things when they feel like it. Anytime dd would ask the same thing a lot I would make a poster to put on the bathroom door or something. Then she could look at it when she wanted.

Gotta run.
post #14 of 14
One story a bfing mom told me is that she would count to 30 to let her son know when it was time to stop nursing -- he was an older nursling -- and she realized one day that he had learned to count to 30! So, she increased the number and counted faster. They are sponges!
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