Reading to your little ones is such an important activity, but the youngest children will only pick out sounds that they are beginning to understand as words. The act of reading to them allows them to hear words over and over and slowly they will begin to distinguish the different words. In time, they will learn their meaning. In no time at all you'll have a preschooler who has a broad vocabulary, understanding thousands of words.
To encourage hearing and learning words, you can make reading fun by asking questions at the end of each page as you read to them. Read each page to your children and then ask them questions specific to what is happening in the pictures or the story. If you are reading to several children then make sure they all get a turn, and ask questions appropriate to their age and understanding. Your children will begin to widen their vocabulary, hearing the words repeated in a similar context. Make sure that even the youngest are asked their own question, even if it is as simple as 'Where is the sky?', 'Point to something that is red', or 'What animal goes [suitable animal noise]?!'.
Reading to your little ones is one of the most valuable exercises you can undertake during their first few years. Encourage a passion for reading and books and their learning will become so much easier later on. The more you can create an interest in books by making stories interesting and fun, then the better in the longer term for your little ones!
Gestalt is a set of psychological principles, founded in Germany in the 1920's, that try to describe the way that we make sense of the world - the skills that set a 2 year old toddler apart from a robot!
There is no direct translation for the word Gestalt but it means something like 'essence' or 'form'. Several core principles make up our understanding of the world, and many children's toys and puzzles are aimed at practicing with real world interaction in order to make our own understanding of these principles. The principles include:-
Gestalt attempts to describe how, when we look out of the window, we convert a series of lines, colours and shapes into a meaningful view of trees, houses, cars and so on.
The principles begin to explain how we make sense of what we see, and also what we hear, around us. Take a tree as an example. To adults, and even young children, it is clear that a trunk, branches, leaves and flowers make up a tree, but to a newborn baby, there's no automatic connection between all of these parts that make it obvious that a tree is a single object. Over time a baby's brain forms the necessary connections required to interpret that the lines, shapes and colours that we see indeed make up a tree.
This understanding is formed using the principles of gestalt: branches are similar, there is continuation between the trunk and its branches, there is common fate amongst the leaves which all flutter in a similar way in a breeze, as do the branches which all move together in stronger wind. All of these clues lead us to be able to interpret a tree as being a unified object.
The amazing thing about babies and toddlers is that they are making these connections and learning and by the age of 2 years, they have a good grasp on all of this. Yet scientists have been trying to apply these same principles to robots for decades and yet still a robot is not able to interpret the world in the way that an untutored toddler can!
Once we form these connections, it is difficult for us to unlearn them, and there is a branch of psychology that believe that some forms of learning difficulty might arise from basic misinterpretation at an early age. If a toddler interprets the world along different principles, then it can be difficult to reprogramme the mind to work otherwise and that can lead to long term learning problems.
Children can be very inquisitive, often asking very good questions, and it's easy to brush off or ignore ones we can't answer, but if they ask a question that you don't know the answer to, seize the opportunity to explore the topic and both you and your children will learn something new!
The internet gives us the most amazing resource imaginable - at our fingertips are the answers to almost any question on the planet, and certainly to any questions that our children will pose! If a challenging question comes your way, take time to research the answer, and encourage the inquisitive, learning nature of your little ones.
The internet is not the only resource at hand. Perhaps a question might lead to a trip to the library, a museum or the zoo? You don't have to answer just a single question, take the time to explore the topic area more broadly and that way your children will learn so much more. Young children absorb facts in an astounding way, but they also need to hear the conceptual reasons behind something as they build up their knowledge and understanding of the world more broadly.
Of course, your children won't understand scientific reasoning behind complex answers, your job is to couch explanations in terms that they will comprehend. Reference things that they do understand, and explain things using examples and experiences from everyday life that your little ones will understand.
Well, why is the sky blue and why do fish live in water?
The sky appears to be blue because air molecules scatter more blue light than other colours, until the sun sinks on the horizon at which point the light is coming indirectly and more red, yellow and orange light is scattered, sometimes leading to glorious sunsets!
Fish don't have lungs, but gills - these have developed to filter oxygen out of water rather than taking oxygen from the air.
Now, try explaining those in terms that a four year old will understand!
It's something that many parents have said for years: that boys don't pick up talking as quickly as girls. A recent survey has endorsed this theory. One in six children found it difficult to learn to talk, with boys finding it more difficult than for girls of the same age. The survey was carried out by YouGov asking over 1,000 parents with children under seven how their children found learning to talk. 13% of girls had problems and 22% of boys had problems learning to talk and understanding speech.
When it came to significant problems, 5% of boys and only 2% of girls had difficulties.
The survey was carried out by Jean Gross, England's new communications champion. She commented that a person's ability to communicate was fundamental and is one of the most important skills a child can master.
Learning to talk is a natural process, so many of the problems that children experience are short lived. The most important aspect is to make your child feel understood. If they feel you are always correcting them, they may not take chances and try out new words and phrases. Children also develop at different rates in different ways. Some say nothing for a long time, but when they talk their language is completely clear and easy to understand. Others try out words which are more difficult to understand but are happy to chatter away.
Just talk as much as you can with your child: read books, sing songs, say rhymes and have fun together. If there's anything you're concerned about just speak to your GP or health visitor.
The gulf between 'hearing' and 'listening' is to our ears what 'looking' and 'seeing' is to our eyes! We looked at 'looking' and 'seeing' in yesterday's post where we learned that looking is passive but seeing is active, processing visual information into a world of understanding. In the same way, we can hear noise, but in order to understand, we have to listen, that is to interpret the noise into aural communication.
Teaching our children to listen is another foundation for learning. Early on we need them to listen to our own instructions when we tell them to do, or not to do, things. Later in life, our children will have to listen in their school environment so that they benefit from the learning being offered. If all they do is hear noise, the babble of their teachers and classmates, then they won't understand and won't learn.
ToucanLearn's 'thinking' activities help to train your baby's to both look and listen in fun ways. Follow your child's learning program in ToucanLearn and they'll be set to excel when they reach school!
Children say the funniest things as they learn language and start speaking for the first time. Toddlers learn language simply by listening to spoken words all around them, and sometimes they mis-hear what has been said. This can give rise to mispronunciations 'sticking', for example spaghetti is often misheard as 'sketty' and we've heard 'gescalator' for 'escalator' and 'ninner' for 'dinner'! Toddlers learn language at a phenomenal rate, far surpassing the capabilities of the most advanced supercomputers. However, it's not true that young toddlers learn language through watching television. Recent studies suggest that until the age of two, babies don't associate words that they hear on the TV with objects outside of the TV in the real world. This means that although they may be shown a picture of a 'spoon' and hear the word repeated, they won't immediately make the link with a spoon right next to them, until they are a little older.
One of the most amazing capabilities that children have is the way that they learn what a 'dog' is, and then are able to look at a photograph of a dog, see a real dog and even see a cartoon drawing of a dog and associate all of these as being dogs. Try teaching a computer to do the same and you'll be training it for years!
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