from Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser page 288

copyright ©Laura Davis and Janis Keyser

Broadway Books, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1540 Broadway, New York, 10036




What about baby cards?


People often talk about the need to motivate children. When Swiss child development specialist Jean Piaget lectured in the United States, he always got what he called "the American Question": "Yes, yes, these stages are fine. But how do we speed children through them?"


Many parents feel pressured to stimulate their babies, to get flash cards for their toddlers, to buy computer programs for their preschoolers, or to place their children in academic preschools. Parents wonder how to best support their children's learning. We've all been told that young children have an incredible capacity to learn, and we don't want to miss out on the opportunity to develop that potential.


Yet children's natural thirst for knowledge and new experiences is insatiable. Infants put everything in their mouths, toddlers are obsessively on the move, preschoolers constantly ask "Why?" As one father put it, "Curiosity is a better motivator than any parent. And it's built-in."


However, many of us have been taught that "learning" looks a certain way: being able to recite the alphabet or identify all of the colors. We picture children who read at three or four. We think of learning as something kids need to sit still to do.  We narrow learning to include only a few intellectual tasks and assume that play is the frivolous or relaxing thing you get to do after you've done your "real" learning. Given this false dichotomy, many of us experience frustration trying to get our children to learn something they are not ready for.



Even though children aren't always exploring the things we want them to explore, they are learning faster in their early years than they will at any other point in their lives. To hurry them along is unnecessary and redundant. Pushing them into premath, reading and other kinds of structured activities can increase their sense of frustration and interfere with the very experiences that provide the best underpinnings for later learning.


Everything babies and young children are doing—whether they're building blocks, doing puzzles, or working with containers—is full of rich, vital lessons. Children learn about sequencing, categorizing, logical thinking, physical relationships, cause and effect, and recognizing differences and similarities. All of these are prereading and premath activities. Recognizing the difference between a grapefruit and a lemon is the first step in recognizing the difference between the big O and the little o. Children's hands-on interactive learning is the best foundation for academic learning.


Our role as parents is not to "motivate" our young learners but to nurture and support their natural motivation. [...]


Spencer Kagan, writes," The best education we can give children is to teach them how to learn."