You know what I’ve observed in 12 years as an early childhood teacher and 6 years as a parent?
Kids are smart. Kids are inherently smart.
They’re tiny super-absorbent dry sponges just begging to be filled with water.
But you know who has to pour the water in? We do.
But in a lot of cases, we don’t. Why? Because we underestimate them.
In my 12 years of teaching in the 3-5 year old range, I’ve observed 5 ways parents do a disservice to their children. 5 things they need to give them between the ages of 2 and 5 that will make the parents life easier when their kids are 6-10 years old and beyond. Because we know how our older children start to turn into little people and our sons get withdrawn and embarrassed by our existence and our daughters become sassy smaller versions of ourselves as teenagers and we think, how did it get to this?
So how do we pour into our 2-5 year old
kids sponges to make it easier to parent them at 6-10 year olds and beyond, give them an edge when they start school and eventually molding them in to the kind of adults we want in the world when we’re old and gray?
First off, we have to treat them as intelligent, capable human beings. I am all for letting them be little for as long as possible but not babying them.
Our children are smarter than we give them credit for! And if we don’t give them these 5 things while they’re young it will be harder to do it when they are older.
I hope this one is obvious! But I see so many kids at 4-5 years old that don’t know how to save “please” or “thank you”. This is something you can start as soon as your child can talk so that it becomes second nature!
Manners also include good table manners, speaking when spoken too – especially when addressed or asked a question by a grown up. Saying “thank you” when given a compliment. Not interrupting when people are talking (that one is HUGE…)
Did I leave anything out? Please, please teach your children manners from a young age. It’s harder when they get older!
I realize this ties in closely with manners. But it’s worth mentioning on it’s own also. The easiest way to get respect is to give respect and in the case of our children, being an example of respect speaks volumes. But we also need to teach it. Pointing out situations that require respect and why. Teaching them how we respect others and their needs and feelings. Teach them to respect nature and animals.
And respect of property. If you allow your child to destroy toys, stomp on them, throw them, break them and you hold the attitude of “it’s just a toy, we’ll get another one.” Guess what they’re going to do when they go to a friend’s house, daycare or school? They’re going to misuse and break toys. And it’s going to teach them that stuff doesn’t matter. Whether it’s theirs or someone else’s…it’s just stuff. Please teach them to respect things (even their toys).
3. Personal Responsibility
I know that it takes your 3 year old 10 times as long to put on their socks and shoes on than if you just did it yourself. But if you take the time to teach them and let them practice it then when they’re 5 they won’t have a meltdown because you’re asking them to put on their socks and shoes.
Are you doing every little thing for your child? I know it’s hard not to, because we as grown ups are just so more efficient. But STOP. Stop it right now!
Teach them how to put on their jacket and hang it up when they’re done with it. Don’t just do it for them. Teach them to put their dirty clothes in the clothes hamper. Don’t just do it for them. Teach them to clean up their mess, throw away their trash, take their dishes to the sink. Just because they’re 2, 3, 4, 5 years old doesn’t mean there aren’t things they can do for themselves.
When your kid gets to kindergarten and he’s the only one out of 20 kids that can open their own snack their teacher will thank you. Not to mention how much easier YOUR life will be when you don’t have to do every.little.thing. for your child.
And the problem with doing every single thing for child is that they begin to expect it. And once they expect it, it will be harder to get them to do it on their own.
Also, start chores young! Bug’s job has been to get the clean silverware out of the dishwasher and put it in the drawer since he was three. It’s his job. It’s expected of him. So now, almost three years later, he does it. If you want them to do chores when they’re older, then you have to give them chores when they’re young. There are plenty of things that they can do! Another one of Bug’s responsibilities is to put away his pajamas, socks and underwear while I’m sorting and folding clean laundry. All of these items are stored in a bottom dresser drawer that is easy for him to reach. It may seem a small task but as he gets older and more capable, he can start putting away more items. Granted the first few times you give small kids chores it’s going to take more time to teach them but consider it an investment in the amount of time you’ll save later. :)
Please give your children personal responsibility! It will make them better people!
4. Give them learning opportunities
You ARE your child’s first teacher. Always remember that.
And here is the teacher side of me coming out, but I really think it’s a disservice to our kids when we don’t give them learning opportunities before they’re sent off too school. Kids are naturally curious (remember when I talked about the little sponges above?) Teach them their letters, numbers, colors and more when they’re toddlers. Don’t expect them to “just catch up on all that stuff later”. They’re likely to pick it up once they start preschool but why wait? If your 4 year old is showing signs of trying to read, help him! Teach him to read! He doesn’t have to wait until he starts school to learn how to read.
Whether you realize it or not, you set the tone for your child’s learning and attitude toward learning for the rest of their life! Why not give them the best advantage possible?
Give them the opportunity to work on all their skills. Of course gross motor skills are important running, jumping, climbing, throwing and catching. And it’s absolutely important that you get out in the yard and help your kids develop those skills.
But fine motor skills are important too. Don’t ignore the fact that your 3 year old can’t hold a crayon correctly and hope that someone corrects that when he starts preschool or kindergarten. Because you’ve put him at a disadvantage. And I say “him” because boys are the most likely to be at this disadvantage. I see more boys that start preschool at 4-5 years old that can’t hold a crayon. They may seem to have little interest in coloring. Find some way to make drawing, writing, coloring, painting fun for your children. Find other ways to help them develop their fine motor skills. Puzzles, lacing activities, painting. You don’t have to put them in a Montessori preschool or sign them up for French lessons when they’re 4. But you can give them the basic academic foundation to carry them far!
You are your child’s first teacher. Please don’t miss out on that opportunity! It is your chance to show your child what the world has to offer and have fun doing it!
5. And lastly, give them experiences
Again, kids are naturally curious! If there is one thing on your child’s world that interests them more than other, do what you can to make it real to them! Bug took an interest in trains when he was a toddler so we went to train museums, checked out books about trains from the library, rode a real train. I wanted trains to be more than just a cartoon on TV.
Now his interest is dinosaurs. So we’ve been to dinosaur exhibits, more visits to the library for dinosaur books, researching dinosaurs online.
Your little ones need your help to give them experiences and help them pursue what interests them. If you squash a child’s curiosity long enough they’ll quit exercising it.
Experiences don’t have to cost a lot either. I mean, I’d love to take Bug on a cross country trip to see all the beautiful scenery and historical places from one coast to the next. But I’m not made of money. But we have a nice zoo (that does free admission days), a science museum, a FREE art museum and free festivals that go on all around us. You can do experiences on the cheap and it’s much more valuable to your child than another toy.
Experiences apply to our children as they get older too. But if you start them young then they’ll appreciate (and know how to behave) at museums, galleries, theaters and more.
Please, do whatever you can to give your child experiences!
I hope these 5 things to give your 2-5 year olds post was helpful! I know a lot of these points apply to kids of ALL ages. But I feel like the younger years are formative and oh, so important. You never know what one day, or one moment in your child’s preschool years will stick with them for their lifetime.
Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, ideas or suggestions!