I was really intrigued by this article that I read at the weekend. If you can’t bothered to read it, it basically says that toddlers and preschoolers from poorer backgrounds that enjoy dressing-up and imaginative play, experience a high level of parental involvement in their young lives and are encouraged to do number and letter games are more likely to do well at school.
My first thought was ‘Well, duh’. It makes total sense that children are more likely to do well at school if they are encouraged to learn and use their imaginations at home. Shouldn’t every parent, regardless of education, wealth and background, be doing all of that anyway? It’s basic common sense isn’t it?
Then I took my Mum hat (fez) off put my work hat (sombrero) on and remembered that far too many children aren’t given even the most basic opportunities to learn and create. The research looks at children from poorer backgrounds but I’m sure there are plenty of uninvolved parents at the other end of the wealth scale.That’s a whole other level of emotional neglect that is incredibly hard to quantify.
I have to confess that I have started getting a little fed-up with the girls wearing a variety of dressing up outfits every single day. For the first time in ages they decided not to be Tinkerbell (sorry – it’s actually a Silvermist costume as G keeps reminding me), Alice, Cinderella or Snow White today and actually wore normal clothes to nursery. Well, they always wear normal clothes but they are usually obscured by a large flouncy costume and fairy wings.Their dressing up clothes are falling apart but their nice tops, skirts and tights are fairly pristine, aside from the cuffs which are wrecked.
The lack of dressing up didn’t inhibit their imaginations one bit though. On our way to nursery this morning R announced that she was Fawn (they haven’t even seen the Tinkerbell movie yet the know all the fairy names) and I can’t recall who G was, possibly one of the girls from Fireman Sam but it was early…
One of the advantages of being a twin is that you’ve always got someone to bounce your ideas off. If G wants to play imaginative games she’s got a natural partner in crime in R. The girls aren’t always reliant on us to be a fairy, a princess or a firefighter. In any case, the dressing up outfits don’t come in my size – at least, not in a ‘suitable for viewing by small children’ way…
One of the things that I need to think about, though (and this article has reinforced it) is that I tend to ‘teach’ the girls things at the same time. For example, I bought some Oxford Reading Tree phonics books and before I read them aloud to the girls I ask them to identify the letters in the words that form the title of the book. One of them is clearly much better at this than the other (it doesn’t feel fair to identify which one is which at this stage) so I need to separate them for this activity in order to boost the confidence of the one that finds it harder and ensure that the other is learning at the correct speed. I need to do the same with the number and letter flashcards and games.
Dh tends to do number-based activities with the girls but he’s also very proud of his ‘Letter of the Week’ initiative, which I picked up from a parent friend who has an early years teaching qualification and suggested to him. Once he’d finished rolling his eyes he started with A and every Wednesday he and the girls sit at the computer and use Google Images to identify items beginning with a particular letter. Then they drag the images into a Powerpoint presentation with R and G getting a slide each for their chosen pictures, with the text underneath. They print the pictures out and stick them up in the dining room and their on bedroom walls. Dh has created a file on the computer so that the pictures can be re-used. He also prints off pictures of the actual letters so that the girls can colour them in. It’s all about familiarity at this stage and the information seems to be lodging in there somewhere.
I always think there’s more that we could do, but the girls seem happy enough with the learning activities we do with themand I’m also keen not to push them too much at this stage. If they say no to a particular activity one day I don’t push it with them. I also like to rotate the things we do with them, so they don’t always expect one of us to do letter-writing and the other one to do arts and crafts. One of the huge benefits of dh being around so much is that we can share the activities out.
You can probably gather from all of this that I (and – I think Dh) am really enjoying this stage with the girls. We’re not at the point of worrying about targets, school reports, SATS or homework yet so we can do things at our own pace. That will come in time. For now, I want the girls to enjoy learning new things and using their imaginations. Hopefully this will set them up for the future.