Tutoring toddlers

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Leave a Comment

I love XM radio.

I especially love the Oprah channel.

Yesterday, on Meet the Peets, they were talking to Dr. Golinkoff of the Infant Language Project about how kids learn -- especially kids under 3 -- and the push to get toddlers and even babies into pre-pre-schools.

Here's why I thought she was interesting.

1. She thinks people are just wasting money by sending their kids to pre-pre-schools. Kids, she says, learn best by playing. Exploring. Being creative. With others, but especially alone. Letting their imagination run.

2. Our entire education system is counter to how kids actually learn. Our standardized-test, no-child-left-behind system encourages memorization and recitation of facts. Parents even teach their babies the composers, on flash cards, before they can even form the word "Mozart." This, Dr. Golinkoff says, is a waste of time. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially she said,"You can teach a parrot to memorize words." Our kids need to be able to problem solve, and think critically, and fact-recitation tests just don't cut it.

3. We've cut out the most important part of our kids lives: alone playtime. We schedule playdates, and music classes, and art classes. Even trips to the zoo are scheduled. One friend complained that she took her son to the zoo and he didn't give a hoot about any of the animals, he just wanted to chase the ducks. My son is fascinated by the trucks at the zoo. But, Dr. Golinkoff says, there is value in letting your kid chase the duck. Forget about the elephants -- you can do it another time. This home-schooling mom writes about the over-scheduling tendencies and the beauty of an alone-day.

4. The most important thing you can do with your toddler, Dr. Golinkoff says, is talk to them. Use vocabulary words. They figure it all out. One mom told her son she was going to have a new baby, that he'd be a big brother. He processed it and announced, "Mama's having a puppy!" Connections. Read to them. Don't skip the big words. Read it all (I'm guilty of that!). Let them set the table for dinner. They'll learn a whole lot more math by figuring out you need four plates, four forks, four napkins, than memorizing flashcards.

One caller to the show was worried because her 3 year old didn't know his ABC's. Big deal, said Dr. G. The ABCs will come.

I'm not advocating ditching the pre-school or anything. All I'm saying is, next time you're feeling guilty that your kid is still in PJs at 11:00 am, with toys strewn about, and that trip to the museum isn't going to happen today, relax. They're learning just fine.


  • EatPlayLove said:  

    Amen! Great post. I've been in the company of mother's that were complaining about a particular preschool not being academic enough. I never quite get that. They have the rest of their lives for academics!

    We love play in our house...oh and wearing our pj's to our hearts content.

  • Anonymous said:  

    does this blog exist anymore?!