You Are Your Child’s First Teacher


Ready or not, you have one of the most important roles in your child’s education. You are her first teacher. Learning begins in the womb to a certain extent, but within days of birth, your child is alert and ready to start taking in the world around her. You’ll see her watching movement, staring at faces, and thinking. The brain is an amazing organ – for months before your child can utter a sound, she’s storing words and sounds away for future use.

As she grows, she makes observations about the world around her that might not become evident for months or even years to come. Things that she learns in her first three years are the most critical aspects of her learning. While a quality childcare center might offer a few basics, most of the learning your child will be doing is done at home while interacting with her family – primarily her parents.

Learning by Example

Children are tiny mirrors of ourselves. Not only do you see your nose and chin in her tiny face, you also will soon see her mannerisms, body features, and vocabulary start to repeat your own. The words you say are snatched up for future use, and it will become very obvious that your little one is ready to communicate in a “conversation” well before she can actually speak.

When you speak to your child, you are helping her to learn many things. She can learn new vocabulary words and also the way in which you conduct a conversation. She learns body language and mannerisms. Just wait until you see her on a pretend phone to understand just how powerful her learning can be. You might also discover that you have a few attributes you’d previously been unaware of.

The Accidental Teacher

Children will learn from their parents whether the parent actively teaches the child or not. The parent that treats the child poorly or treats her mother poorly will be imprinting that behavior on the child just as surely as the parent who practices singing nursery rhymes and the alphabet together.

Words you use that you’d rather not hear your children say will be picked up in the same fashion as other words and mannerisms and behaviors you wish you didn’t have will also be copied by your children. It’s not a coincidence that the children of smokers are more likely to smoke and that the children of divorced parents are more likely to wind up divorced themselves. While children can overcome their upbringing, few parents want to leave their children with poor examples to follow.

The Most Critical Teacher

Statistics show that the children of middle class and upper middle class families will be exposed to millions more words than children in households of poverty. While this is dismal news for those working hard with their children in households with lower incomes, the statistic is an average. A three-year-old in an affluent household typically has the same number of words in his vocabulary as an adult man living in severe poverty. This is a product of circumstance and lack of early intervention.

Parents, regardless of income, can substantially boost their child’s vocabulary by engaging them in conversation as frequently as possible. Reading to your child daily and explaining new words by pointing to the related picture or using other words to help describe it can help your child’s vocabulary grow. Stretch your own vocabulary by focusing on using different words and point out as many things to your child as possible in her daily surrounding.

Math skills are fundamental in your child’s early education as well. While most preschoolers can’t add or subtract, knowing how to count properly can make a huge difference in the years of math ahead. Counting properly means you count objects – not just saying the numbers. Practice counting up and then counting back down. You can count anything around you, and practice it as often as you think of it. The more your child understands about number concepts, the easier her future math lessons will be. The most critical part of the lesson is that she realizes that fifteen is more than five and that two is less than seven.

Life Lessons

Reading, speaking, vocabulary and number concepts are just a few skills you can help your child develop in her early years. There are endless lessons you can provide as your child’s first teacher to help your child’s knowledge grow and ensure her success in her school years. While academics are important, don’t forget to cover other areas such as following instructions, coloring, listening quietly and basic manners. These are lessons that are just as important in the long run as singing the ABC song.

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