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Early Childhood Education: Glenn Doman Tips for Flashcard Use

Looking for more flashcards? Check out our Free Flashcards Resource Page.

Since around about November last year, I’ve been dabbling with flash cards using my own homemade ones on Powerpoint (you can read about them here – alphabets, colours 1, colours 2, numbers).  If you click back to my old posts, you’ll notice that all my pictures are in some way related to Thomas and Friends.  That is because Thomas was the only way I could keep Gavin interested in learning anything for any given length of time.  I did try making flash cards for fruits and vegetables but he never wanted to look at those cards.  I eventually stopped using flash cards because there are only so many subjects you can relate to Thomas and Friends before you run out of ideas (or maybe you can think of more but my creativity is kind of limited).

After reading about Glenn Doman and Shichida, I was re-inspired.  I went out on a limb and bought several early childhood educational resources using the flashcard technique (which I’m still waiting to receive so I can’t review them yet).  While I was waiting, I read the book by Glenn Doman on How to Multiply Your Baby’s Intelligence and started making a few of my own flash cards using A4 paper and a marker pen to test out the method on Gavin.  Admitedly, I didn’t get too far with the program since the news of my pregnancy kind of threw our lives out of whack and it is never advisable to introduce new programs to children in the midst of such upheavals.

Here is what I think of the method based on what I’ve read and tested so far…

Although I had heard about using flashcards to teach very young children to read, I’d never really dug deep enough to understand how it worked.  Even though I had tried using flashcards with Gavin before, the problem was that I was trapped in my limited understanding of how children learn.  I assumed that Gavin learned the way adults did – that is, he would need to study each flashcard carefully and for a length of time before he could commit it to memory.  I also taught it to him the way I was taught growing up – by testing.  I showed him a flashcard, taught him what it was and tested him to see if he remembered.  As a result, Gavin grew bored of the flashcards and didn’t want to play the game any more.

What I found useful about reading Glenn Doman’s book was that it helped me understand how very young children learn, what are the triggers that excite them and what puts them off learning.  Only with this understanding did I realise where I went wrong when I first attempted to use flashcards with Gavin.

Mistake Number 1: Going too slowly.

Children learn quickly – much, much more quickly than adults.  I think we can all agree on this one.  Just think of how many adults you know of that can learn a brand new language as quickly as a child learns to speak for an illustration.

Glenn Doman explains that when babies are born, they are very much right brain users.  It is only as they grow older that they start to shift towards the left brain.  An interesting quality of the right brain is its photographic nature – it can remember whole images of things that it sees as opposed to the left brain which only remembers parts.  For this reason, speed is of the essence.

While adults need time to commit a picture or word to memory, all a child needs is a moment (long enough to take a photograph).  By showing a flashcard for longer, we bore the child because he’s already gotten it.  We all know that very young children have short attention spans and cannot wait while we deliberate over whether we’ve shown them the card for long enough.  In the meantime, we’ve lost the child’s attention.

So when you play the flash card game, you need to show the card quickly – about one second per card as a rule of thumb.

Mistake Number 2: Testing.

Children hate to be tested.  Well, not surprisingly.  Think of how many times you were proud of something your child learned and you wanted to boast about it to your friends and family.  Then when you asked your child to repeat what he learned, he refused and pretended he didn’t know what you were talking about.  Sound familiar?

After I had taught Gavin the flashcards, I started to go through them waiting for him to tell me what he saw.  In essence, I was testing him.  He obliged me initially but after a while, I noticed he started to lose interest in the game.

So if you can’t test, then how do you know if your child has learned it?  Ah…  That’s the part of the book I haven’t gotten to – yet!  Bear with me, we’ll get there.

Mistake Number 3: Showing too many cards.

The rule of thumb is to show only ten flashcards – or a set number based on your child’s attention span.  Never persist if your child is starting to get bored or if his attention is drifting away.  You want to keep the game fun and exciting – which means having your child beg for more rather than giving too much of the game away.  In other words, always offer less than your child would like.

Mistake Number 4: Showing the same cards too many times.

This is almost the same as showing the cards too slowly.  After a while, your child will have learned the cards by heart and the game will start to get boring.  You need to start introducing new material to keep the game interesting.

What Glenn Doman offers in his book is a recipe for teaching very young children using flashcards.  The method taps into the enormous potential of a very young child by encouraging you to begin as early as possible.  That is, a 3 year old learns more quickly than a 4 year old; a 2 year old learns more quickly than a 3 year old; a 1 year old learns more quickly than a 2 year old; and a 6 month old learns more quickly than a 1 year old – you get the picture.  The earlier you start, the easier it is for your child.  By the time your child reaches 6 years of age, Glenn Doman believes this early childhood potential for learning is lost – hence the urgency to tap into it as early as possible to make the most of it.

Glenn Doman offers specific instructions, such as the exact measurements of the card, the colour of the ink on the cards, the size of the words, uppercase or lower case, how many cards, how quickly, how many times a day, a week, etc.  In short, it is a recipe.  You don’t have to follow the recipe – you can use it as a guideline as long as you keep to the basic rules:

  1. Begin as young as possible
  2. Be joyous at all times
  3. Respect and trust your child
  4. Teach only when you and your child are happy
  5. Create a good learning environment
  6. Stop before your child wants to stop
  7. Introduce new materials often
  8. Be organised and consistent
  9. Do not test your child
  10. Prepare your materials carefully and stay ahead
  11. Remember the fail-safe law: if you aren’t having a wonderful time and your child isn’t having a wonderful time – stop.  You are doing something wrong.

Update: This post was written some years ago. Please see our updated notice on the Glenn Doman Program.

Looking for more flashcards? Check out our Free Flashcards Resource Page.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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