Young Children are Little Learning Sponges

When it comes to early childhood education, the general advice is “just teach, don’t test”.  Relax and have fun and you can be assured that your child is learning.  Invariably, when there is no feedback coming from our children, there is this insatiable desire to test.  I admit, I’ve not been able to resist temptation and tested Gavin several times already just to reassure myself that he is learning what I teach him.  Time and again, Gavin has shown me that he is learning.  He can read many of the words I flash in front of him and he can remember the words I’ve just shown him even though I’ve held them up for the briefest of moments.  Of course there are words that he doesn’t remember and I just simply repeat them for him again.

Being new to the whole early childhood education arena, I still find myself fumbling around.  I know some of the rules but there are a lot of gaps in my understanding.  Particularly when it comes to Gavin, who started all these programs late, it is difficult for me to know what I should and shouldn’t be doing with him.  I’ve heard from other parents who have had children go through the right brain training program that usually a child that starts the program before the age of one will demonstrate better results compared to one that commences after the age of one.  One mother told me she could see the difference between her two children – one who started before the age of one and the other who started after the age of one.  Perhaps, as Gavin and Gareth grow older, I will also see the difference.

I’ve also heard that babies are able to absorb material through 360 degree learning and through peripheral learning because their right brains are completely open.  How does this apply to a child who is three years old?  Since he would still be actively right brain, one can assume that he would demonstrate some 360 degree learning and some peripheral learning, but having transitioned partially to the left brain, does that mean he absorbs less through these methods?  These are questions to which I have no definitive answers.  However, I am beginning to develop an inkling.

Today, I took out the new sticker atlas I bought for Gavin from MPH on “space”.  We were in the process of sticking all the planets into their correct positions.  I would ask Gavin which sticker he wanted and then tell him a few facts about that planet while he was sticking it into place.  Then Gavin pointed to Earth and said that’s where we live.

I have a hanging mobile of the solar system that I made for Gavin a couple of years ago which I hung up over Gareth’s changing area.  From time to time, Gavin would ask to be changed “like a baby” and I would lie him on top of the changing area.  One evening, Gavin started asking me about the planets and I told him we lived on Earth which was the colourful one.  It has been quite some time since I told him that, but it looks like he remembered.

When I asked him again which sticker he wanted next, he pointed to Pluto and said, “I want Pluto.”  I was very surprised to discover that he could correctly identify Pluto since there was nothing particularly distinctive about it.  He also stuck it in the correct position without me having to point out where it belonged on the chart.  The only thing that identified Pluto was a small label next to the sticker and its position on the chart.  I’ve always been made to understand that children cannot read such small text, hence the need for the flashcards with large words as recommended by Glenn Doman, so I wasn’t sure if he actually read the word or the simply remembered what Pluto looked like from the poster on Space we have up in the room.

I asked Gavin how he knew it was Pluto and he said, “See, it says ‘Pluto’ – like in Mickey Mouse.”  I tried to think back to all the stuff he’s ever seen from Mickey Mouse and I cannot recall ever teaching him to read “Pluto”.  I have read Mickey Mouse books to him but those were for bonding time with no educational intent behind it.  I don’t know how he learned to recognise the word “Pluto” but I guess children really do learn to read in a variety of ways.

After that, he said, “But Pluto’s not a planet.”

That was something I’d told him when I noticed that the poster on Space that I bought was outdated.  It listed Pluto as one of the planets even though Pluto has since been relegated to the category of “dwarf planet”.  I remember telling him that when he was playing with his construction toy and he honestly didn’t look like he was even paying attention to me.

So I guess the whole point of this post is that children will learn and they do learn.  Sometimes it can be in ways you never even intended.  My take home lesson is “have faith – they will learn”.  And I’m going to try to squelch the urge to test Gavin in future.  When he’s ready, he will show me what he’s learned.

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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