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Why Every Toddler’s a Genius!

 

It’s like magic…all of a sudden something clicks inside their little minds and they are the smartest baby you know!  Almost overnight these adorable, chubby cheeked, gap-toothed angels are able to demonstrate they understand what you are saying by following a simple direction, answering a yes/no question or imitating your gestures.  They show you they understand associations and daily happenings by going to the bathroom when you say they need a bath or going to the back door when you say it’s time for daddy (or mommy) to get home from work.  And every (proud) parent begins to wonder if they are raising a toddler genius!

My third child is 15 months old and the other day I caught myself bragging to Nicole about how smart she is.  Lately she goes to the closet to get her shoes when she hears me say we are leaving and she answers yes/no questions pretty accurately.  But as I heard my proud parent boasting, I remembered I thought her brother and sister were “sooooo smart” at this age too!!!  So why was that?  I mean, I do believe my kids are smart, but no smarter than any one else’s children, especially at the tender age of 15 months.  And I can’t count how many times I have heard a parent bragging on the early emerging genius they call their toddler.  So why is it that we ALL think we are raising little Einsteins at this age???  What’s the explanation behind it?

The foundation or building block of communication is receptive language, or a child’s ability to understand spoken language.  Their whole (little) lives they have been absorbing every thing you say, every word on each page you read and observing your actions as you navigate their daily routines.  These multi-sensory experiences (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and sometimes tasting) coupled with the repetition of your words and actions help them to understand what words mean.  Also when you speak to them and accompany your words with gestures (like pointing to what you want them to get or nodding your head yes and no), you increase their comprehension.  After many months of your tireless effort to keep their routines consistent and provide them with stimulation, all while keeping them happy and entertained, you are rewarded!  You finally realize the fruits of your labor!!!  They are now mobile enough to act upon what you have been teaching them for the past 12-18 months!  So relish in this stage, be PROUD of the tiny genius you have created!  And go ahead and brag…you deserve the accolades for raising baby Einstein!

If you would like to understand more about child development and get tips on how to help your child grow and develop during the toddler years check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  It is jam packed with purposeful play ideas to engage your child and help you appreciate the magic of development during the first 3 years of your baby’s life.  Embrace the tiny miracle of your child!  Hug and kiss your baby(s) today 🙂

Dear Parents…

Dear Parents,

There is something I need you to know.

Your children really need to play.

Why, you ask, do I care?

I care because I work with infants and toddlers and have two elementary aged daughters. I see every day as an early childhood professional and as a parent what our society is doing to children and families. I’ve been there….where you may be. Sitting in a friend’s playroom with your two year olds. Looking at the 40 different toys that sing the alphabet and count in 4 languages. I’ve stared at the items labeled with site words around the room and the shelves of books and flashcards teaching letters and sounds. I have had the pang of panic. I’ve heard that little voice in my head, “If she can’t recite letters or shapes or count..how…will..she.. EVER be ready for Kindergarten?”   “If she can’t sit through story hour…how will she EVER sit through circle time?” “If she can’t recognize her letter sounds..how..will..she..EVER get into HARVARD?”

What you need to know.

PLAY builds brains. Simple as that. 40% of the neural connections in the brain at birth are “extra.” Babies prune out what they don’t need and strengthen what they use. Flip flashcards in front of their face and yes, they might be able to recite back that small amount of information on cue. Let them make shapes out of stones, turn Play doh into pictures, and count while throwing blocks into a bucket and they will LEARN and REMEMBER.  Why? Because REAL LEARNING occurs in context. Children learn through all senses…engage them and it becomes permanent for them.  Your child can’t sit still? GOOD. They shouldn’t be able to! Learn while MOVING through PLAY! Jump, climb, dance. This is what small children should do.

How this applies to you.

Your parent gut screams to you loud and clear what your child needs. So tell it to stare that message that society is sending you down, and tell it to ZIP IT. Your actions and decisions as a parent matter for your child. I don’t say this to stress you. I say it to EMPOWER you. Breathe. Your child needs you and time and space to PLAY. How can this look for your family? SCHEDULE unscheduled time. Don’t sign up for so many (or any) “classes” for infants and toddlers. Go to the park or join a play group instead. Looking for daycares or preschools? Search for ones that have less “curriculum” and more play. Don’t ask the teacher “what did she learn today?” Ask, “What did they play today?” Because the answer to the second question will tell you WHAT SHE LEARNED. Don’t feel like she didn’t get the whole experience you paid for if there is NO WORK SHEET at the end of the day. I have an 8 year old. Trust my journey if I have come before you…you will get enough worksheets in your child’s lifetime to wallpaper 4 houses. If you are handed an art project that looks different than the other children’s EMBRACE IT. It means your child is learning to express themself individually. If it appears your child spent all day JUST PLAYING… EMBRACE IT. It means he had time to build his own interests, socialize with friends, learn to resolve conflicts, and release stress. It means he was able to keep his body healthy and sensory system regulated.

The good news? 

Do Less. Enjoy more. Be in the moment. Just say no to the craziness of it all. You will be happier. Your child will be happier – and healthier & smarter too. 

PLAY BUILDS BRAINS.

So enjoy your kid. Go PLAY!

Love,

Me

For more information on what REAL development looks like (no reading at 18 months is NOT TYPICAL) and ways to support development through PLAY – click here)