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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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. 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.
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.
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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.