This week, a few items in my in box illustrate the dilemma of modern parenting/educating the littlest ones. With all the research saying zero-to-3 is prime learning time, everyone from software developers to day care centers promises to give infants and toddlers the education and stimulation their rapidly expanding minds are craving.
Yet early childhood experts Maxwell King and Michael Robb recently pointed out in this Huffington Post article that the simplest, least-expensive way to help very young children build language and social skills is just to talk to them. In the piece, they take a moment to encourage parents and policymakers to use “teachnology” to enhance conversation and spread the word to parents across all demographic levels about the importance of talk.
At the same time, plenty of early-childhood experts are still encouraging parents to limit their children’s exposure to electronic media and those spectacular sound-and-light show toys that can drive adults crazy in seconds. In case you’re still looking for the perfect gift for your toddler, here are some tips from Zero to Three on choosing toys. Though they go into detail, the advice boils down to this: choose toys that make the kid do the work, whether it’s blocks, stacking cups, or puzzles. Avoid toys that that are mostly for children to watch.
That’s pretty common sense, but in the midst of holiday dazzle, it’s good to be reminded that sometimes the simplest gift has the most lasting value, or at least might be as interesting as the box and wrapping it came in! In the new year, Early Years hopes to delve more deeply into the questions of what media, technologies, and experiences can and can’t do to help children reach their potential. In the mean time, happy holidays to you, dear readers.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.