5 child development lessons I’ve learned the hard way

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

It feels like just yesterday I was here on my blog asking advice about when to have a baby—Wondering if I should wait a few more years or just dive in. I can’t believe six years of blogging has gone by. Now I’m asking advice about things like homeschooling and Disney trips, and I’m able to give a little advice in return about things I’ve learned along the way.

I’m no expert, and really, I think each mom is an expert with her own child. I know I’ve learned the hard way that every child is different. I expected my second child to come out much like the first, but aside from their good looks, they’re very different.

I’ve learned a few other lessons the hard way and I’m going to share them with you and hopefully spare some greener parents some of the trouble I’ve experienced.

1. Every Child Learns, But They All Learn Differently and at Different Paces

I had a bias in believing first born children are superior. I’m the oldest, my husband is the oldest. We’re both awesome. My daughter is awesome. Then I had a second child and my second baby has been just as splendid as the first. Yet, there are still times I wondered if her first-child genes give her an advantage. For instance, I have a video of her saying many of the words she knew at 19 months, here it is so you can witness it yourself: (excuse my wrong-angled iPhone video, this was before I wised up).

Big T is almost 19 months and while he can say a handful of things, they are different things, and probably not as many as Lil’ J could say. Now that I think about it, to be fair, I think I’ll record one with him soon.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.
The thing is, comparing one child to the next, isn’t entirely beneficial. My son may not be as verbal as my daughter was at his age, but he’s developing faster in other ways. He can climb ladders (I don’t recommend you typically allowing this), throw things right into the middle of my forehead from a distance, lock doors, flush random objects down the toilet, and climb into the bathroom sink all by himself. All sorts of things Lil’ J wasn’t interested in at his age.

Big T is what I like to call an inquisitive toddler, who is very interested in cause-and-effect kinds of scenarios. ‘Hey, if I throw this piece of food, Snoop will come and get it!’ type of thing.


5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

I interviewed Dr. Deborah Weber, Head of Child Development at Fisher-Price about babies and their development and she told me children may develop skills faster or slower than others and still be growing just fine. “What’s reassuring is that children develop at their own pace and reach milestones at different times,” she said. She said even her daughter is a classic example because she never crawled, but just scooted. While she was the last baby to walk in her group of friends, she still learned how to walk, just at her own pace.

I’ve learned to let go of the major milestones and realized my kids are ok. I’m doing ok!

2. Pay Attention. No Really… Pay Attention. They’re Learning More Than We Know

While I’m over here worrying about my son picking up on new words I’m trying to teach him, I’m missing new things he’s trying to teach me.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

My mom and sister moved to Austin earlier this summer. He LOVES Grannie. Well one day when we’re at home he keeps saying my name “MOM… MOM… MOMMIE!!” I kept answering him “Yes… Yes?… YES?” Trying to figure out what he was asking for. It wasn’t until my mom came over later that evening that I realized he wasn’t saying “Mommy” but “Mahee” …His way of saying “Grannie.”

Now when he sees her van, or we drive by her house, or if he sees anything that reminds him of her he’ll say “Mahee” and I know what he means. He’ll even take me around the street to a house that has a front door that looks a lot like my moms. He’ll walk right up and before I can catch him, knock on it. Now I’ve recognized that he’s just trying to get to grandma’s house, and quite frankly, I’m pretty impressed that he can put it all together.

Dr. Weber says these are the type of moments that help you realize your child is learning. “You’ll know that your child has learned a concept when they cannot only show you something on a toy, but also in the world around them.”

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.
3. My Child, is a Playground Bully

My son isn’t really a bully per say, but I’ve recently noticed he doesn’t really like to share. When my daughter would stand and give an incredulous look if another kid took a toy from her, my son will get an angry cry, and probably try to snatch it back. I’ve only ever heard him say the word “no” when talking to another child encroaching on “his” playthings.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

This week on our neighborhood playground he started to shove a little girl (bigger than him) who was trying to climb up with him. I immediately removed him from the situation and explained (as best as I can to this little guy) that we’ve gotta share. Apparently we still need practice in this department.

“Taking turns talking and singing into the toys, then encouraging trading toys is a fun way to introduce sharing at playtime,” Dr. Weber told me. “As you play with your toddler you’ll find that natural opportunities for teaching social skills simply appear.”

Needless to say, we’ll be adding in some pretend-play involving plenty of sharing scenarios.

4. Learning Can (and Should Be) Fun

Earlier this year I agonized over which pre-school to enroll Lil’ J in. I toured a few and ultimately decided on one where she’d go part-time and get to exercise, play and learn at the same time.

My kids will have 18+ years to sit in a classroom or lecture hall and learn the boring way. Right now it’s about having fun, plus it’s legit. Children learn best in this playful environment. “The more children play, the more they learn,” Dr. Weber said. “They find out about themselves and about the world they live in, in the most natural way.”

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

5. Basically, Just Have Fun With It

When I sit down with Lil’ J and practice reading books, she’s likely to get bored fairly quickly. But when I make it a game with her wooden letter blocks or we role-play with her dolls, she’s all in. When we play “I Spy” we look for things that start with a letter or sound.

My son loves learning through music, motions, and dancing. If I sing “head, shoulders, knees and toes” he’ll get into learning about his body parts. The little Laugh and Learn table we have that sings a “Hello, Bye Bye” song is what finally got him to say and wave bye bye.

“Providing a well-rounded toy box gives you a variety of ways to encourage development of different skills,” Dr. Weber said. “You’ll help your child get ready for school-and for life. With help from you—giving plenty of hugs and positive responses to encourage learning along the way.”

We have balls, blocks, cars and trains; play kitchens, dolls and books, all good for different lessons and loads of fun.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.

What lessons have you learned as your child has gotten older? Leave a comment then click the Rafflecopter button and you’ll be entered to win a Fisher-Price Smart Stages Train. My son loves it because it moves, plays music, and he can set it up and drive it off of things. Watch this video featuring a super adorable little boy you may recognize playing with the fun toy you can win.

5 Child Development Lessons: Things I wish I had known when I first became a mom.
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A big thanks to Fisher-Price for letting me pick Deborah’s brain about what all the fuss is about with baby toys, and for reminding me I’m doing an OK job as a mom. I’m honored to be an FPInsider working with the company for the next several months sharing what parenting lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning). Join me in the conversation on Twitter or Facebook using the Hashtag #FPInsiders or just hit me up here. Opinions (and typos) are mine alone.FP insiders logo

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  1. I’ve learned it takes a ton of patience! I have a boy like yours, he’s busy busy busy, and knows no fear! I try really hard to stop myself from yelling no! across the house as he tries to climb up barstools and coffee tables, and to give him the opportunity to show me strength and teach him about safety and appropriate use. We love puzzles, and I’m amazed his little hands (and brain) can maneuver the pieces to fit. We also love our stacking balls that teach cause and effect, and I love to watch his creativity and imagination grow by trying different configurations until they topple over. We’re expecting another boy in April and I’m so interested to see how different they’ll be!

  2. I noticed the same thing with Kal. When I try to compare him to other kids, it never matches up… because he’s way better at some things and not quite there yet with other things. So I’ve learned that eventually the vast majority of kids “catch up” because they all develop at their own pace… but they get there! My favorite “learning toy” is those train set tables. Or racetracks. Things like that. Boys and cars or trains are just cute together. 🙂

    1. It’s funny cause I talked about comparing my kids to each other a lot in this post, but I also compare my daughter to other little girls around her age and I need to STOP! Even if she could spell or read better than every other kid her age, there’s no telling how she’ll be in 10 years. hehe. Though awesome I hope. No need to stress about it now. 🙂

      And I agree, boys with those rolling toys are so adorable. My son can’t seem to get enough of them.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This is so relevant to me right now. My daughter is 8 months old and just started crawling. My husband excitedly told his coworker about it yesterday, and she said, “Wow. She’s behind the times! My kids started walking when they were 9 months old!” I’m learning that it’s so hard not to compare. But when she spends time with other babies I can see that they do indeed develop quicker in some ways than others. My daughter is quite vocal, for example!

  4. Puzzle/activity boards are a hit here…anything the girls can zip, snap, button, etc. We also have a stuffed lion with five different buckles on it that my youngest (now 2 1/2) got for Christmas last year. She still plays with it everyday and so does my 4 year old!

  5. My favorite toy is one that doesn’t make noise and children can “be” the noise for the toy. It is a toy that the child uses their imagination to make the play with. And the hardest thing to learn is to NOT compare…each child has a right to stand on their own. ;>)

    1. Puzzels rock. I’m so amazed watching my daughter complete somewhat-complex ones by herself now. Not to compare but I’m not sure when my son will get the patience for that 😉 haha. Thanks and good luck!

  6. Seems like my son, Thaddeus, is similar when it comes to the bully thing. He “bullies” his twin sister, Zoe. I love it when Zoe exacts revenge, torturing him by making him chase her to get a toy she wants.

    Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

  7. I definite agree with the first two when it comes to my second. He’s a lot slower to talk than my first, but suddenly the words are coming fast and furious. They’re not always clear, but most of the time I eventually understand what he’s getting at. He’s very perceptive and picks things up so fast, even when I’m not expecting it. They’re so different in so many ways and I sort of love that because it keeps things exciting! I’m definitely more laid back with this one, but I think you have to be. What kills me is the lessons he learns from his big brother that I wish he wouldn’t. They drive each other nuts (generally not in a good way), and I don’t like that he’s learned about retaliation so quickly 🙁 It’s a lot harder to “control” the message when your child has other influences besides you–even ones in your own house!

  8. Thank you for sharing!
    I have learned (or am still learning) to enjoy each stage of development. I feel that I sometimes try to push my baby to the next stage and look to far to the future instead of enjoying where she is at. Every baby develops differently and I need to enjoy every moment

  9. My favorite learning toys are books and legos/blocks. Books since you can read about anything, and legos/blocks because they cam be used in so many creative ways!

    And I’d love to win this giveaway, because my 1.5 year old daughter is obsessed with trains, and actually pointed out the train picture on your sidebar while I was reading your blog! LOL

  10. I have learned that my kids have such different learning styles! My son is all about hands on, but my daughter actually likes things like flash cards and workbooks. It’s been an adventure figuring out how to best teach them!

  11. I’ve definitely learned not to compare my two girls and I’ve also learned a lot about my OWN mom and parenting me. I have so much more respect for my mom because I’m learning my daughter is A LOT like me with some things we’re dealing with right now.

  12. I think Legos and books are great but the best learning activities to me are letting the grandkids help with cooking and serving food. Also letting them follow through on their ideas. If he says “I need tape and cardboard to make a castle”, let him do it!

  13. My one year old daughter has a walk n’ learn toy that on one side has toys and the other side is a walker-type-thing. Thanks!

  14. My favorite learning toy for my boys is and has always been blocks, with Lincoln Logs coming in a close second. I think toys that make you use your mind are the most helpful. It makes for some creative, inventive kiddos. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  15. my daughter loves matching games such as memory and she loves playing with flashcards as well. She also likes using the leapfrog watch to play all sorts of activites and games

  16. My favorite learning toy is a shape sorter. It’s a great toy to teach shapes, colors, and even counting.

  17. My favorite learning toy are books and puzzles. Thank you for the chance to win this, I would love to give this to my baby girl for Christmas 🙂

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