Emerging Skills

[deleted account] ( 13 moms have responded )

I have been thinking a lot about this lately... Aiden (now 2 years and nearly 5 months) has gone through a month of intense learning - without any official teaching. He has learnt his left from his right, how to count backwards, our full address (including suburb, state (province) and country, how to navigate certain kiddies websites, how to spell words and more sight reading words too. We have seen another jump in his vocabulary, in the rate of words he learns per day and also in his desire to know what new words mean. He is now starting to take things apart (like his nightlight) to see how they work, and wants to examine anything new. anyways I digress... I could go on and on but I won't bore you all... this is just background for my pondering question:

Aiden is now showing a sincere desire to learn 3 new things:

1. how to read words. Everything he sees that has letters he asks me "what does this say?" He will pick out letters, but not new words yet.

2. how to write letters of the alphabet. He can't even hold a pencil properly yet but with chalk on a chalkboard he is getting pretty good at forming the letters of his name. He gets rather upset when they don't look "proper" (his words)

3. how to tell the time. he keeps grabbing my arm and looking at the watch. He then will say "look mommy the big hand is pointint to that dot. So it's 6 o clock." (he picks random times to say. he also walks around looking at an imaginary watch on his arm and telling the time. he asks me what the time is about a zillion times each day.

So now my pondering question for you for this week is:

do you / did you / would you go ahead and teach him these new emerging skills, or would you just leave it and let him learn them on his own (as he seems to be doing anyways).

it IS a bit more tricky in that I am running out of other activities that interest him long enough during the days. I usually guide our activities along the lines of where he is developmentally and use our activities and play time to develop the next set of milestone developments (if that makes sense) as this keeps him interested and entertained (which translates into him NOT wrecking the house out of boredom, not wanting to just watch TV or play his PC games...) This also keeps him eager to learn new things and see new things. if we dont have this, then he doesn't even want to bother getting dressed for the day. (monday he spent the entire morning in just his underpants - even though it was rather chilly - but that's another story for another day.)

I am rambling here so thanks if you got this far (you guys make a great sounding board BTW! LOL).

And to summarise:

when our toddlers and preschoolers show signs of emerging skills that are seriously ahead of their chronological peer group do we :

1. Encourage and actively teach them those skills

2. Ignore them and hope that when we wake up tomorrow our kids will be "normal"

3. only actively teach when they insist and ask repeatedly

any other ideas and comments? And bottom line: do I teach him these new skills?



Rebekah - posted on 05/21/2009




Lauryan, good questions and lots of them -- but I'll try to answer all the different parts. This is like a flashback for me to where we were 6-9 months ago. Aiden sounds sooo much like Henry at the same age.

In answer to your big question, I think that YES, you teach him the things that he's interested in. Morag has a great point (one that I try to consider often) about what you would do if he wasn't advanced. You'd want to try to teach him developmentally appropriate skills, right? So, these are things that Aiden is telling you are developmentally appropriate for where he's at right now. The thing that I worry about with the idea of waiting to teach concepts or skills is that essentially I'd be saying, no, don't try to learn, and I really don't want to squash his thirst for knowledge or love of learning -- that's what school is for (LOL)!

I guess what I've done is sort of a combination of 1. and 3. Sometimes I actively encourage, sometimes I take the backseat, but usually it's things he's shown an interest in or something similar to another thing I know he likes doing already. It also kind of depends on what sort of things you'd like to encourage. It's pretty useful to me that Henry can read and tell time and knows right from left, so I don't know why I wouldn't encourage it. We just made the 3.5 hr drive to the farm by ourselves this weekend and he read in the backseat the entire way!

1. From about 18 months Henry's favorite toys have been alphabet blocks -- we now have about 3 sets -- and he loved spelling and figuring out new words. He would arrange letters for words he knew and then I'd say things like, what if you take the c off of cat and put a b there? And we'd spell new words. More often than not he'd just copy new words he'd seen places or ask me how to spell things that he saw around the house. We used to play a word hunt game when doing errands where we'd find words or things that began with every letter of the alphabet. We pretty much read everything everywhere, which is entirely by his prompting. He still asks me what everything says, but now it's mostly the words he doesn't know. Or he'll say something like, "Why does that say...?" Today he asked about 'anxious'.
2. We had a HUGE frustration with this for the longest time and he would refuse to write because it made him so angry that he couldn't do it. Then right before Christmas (about 34 mo) he just decided he could and in about 3 days he had mastered every letter and number except S and 8, which followed within a week or two when he finally let me show him how. Try using a highlighter to write things and have him trace with a pencil. It also did help to give him silly ways to remember how to do the letters. B has a head and a belly, C is like an open O, T wears a hat, K has an arm and a leg, etc. If he wants to write words but is getting frustrated, try using blocks or letter stamps or stickers so he can "write" independently. Or type on the computer.
3. He's had an obsession with clocks since before he could talk and did the same thing with time -- but everything was 9 o'clock here. He progressed from telling time to the hour, to the half hour and has been telling to 5 minutes for a few months now. Understanding that the numbers stand for other numbers is a BIG leap. Draw a clock with the numbers on and then put the 5, 10, 15 minute marks next to the numbers in a different color. Draw the hour hand in the same color as the numerals and the minute hand to match the 5, 10, 15. That way you can explain that the hour hand is for the big numbers and the minute hand is pointing to the little numbers. It's handy to do on a dry erase or chalkboard so you can change where the hands are pointing. I actually got a wipe off book that teaches how to tell time and thought it was really useful how it progressed through the lesson. (www.priddybooks.com) However, he basically sat down with it and went straight through it once, learned it and hasn't looked at it much again. This is a 5 year + skill, btw.

I have found information intended for homeschooling to be a good resource, either online or in bookstores, for keeping him busy, or to figure out how to present information in a different way to keep him interested. The main thing is to just keep it fun and interesting and not be too much of a lesson. I answer lots and lots of questions, and try to just give him the best answer that I know. Sometimes easier said than done!

Oh, and don't be surprised if the sudden interest in a subject disappears just as suddenly. Henry was really into math and numbers for a while in the fall, then it must have gone out of favor for mastering reading and writing. I was actually concerned for a bit because it seemed like he didn't know things that he used to, but within the last month or so he's picked up where he left off and is back into counting (in many languages, of course) and adding and subtracting, especially enjoying negative numbers. So, that's what you've got to look forward to in another few months!

Sarah - posted on 05/19/2009




firstly... does it matter if he stays in his underpants? lol. There is a 4th option and that is providing him with materials to master such as books, paper, a cheap watch and wall clock and let him self dirrect his learning, by answering questions and helping him to learn where the answers might be hiding. Self dirrected learning is an important skill in itself especially for intelligent kids, often the world will not hand them the next lesson plan to keep them busy. It is good to encourage him but I think the options shouldn't consist of "educate and entertain me or i will just go watch tv" teach him how to self educate too. As his reading and research capacity increases (and it willl.... oh how it will) he will be able to do this more effectively and with less of your help. Of course this does not take away his need for your attention, support and encouragment. I hope this makes sense, actively teaching him (ie, flashcards, worksheets ect) is great but letting him use his creative mind to find out what he wants to know and how he is going to find out is even more fun for him and for you, he may even put some clothes on to do it lol.

Phoebe - posted on 05/17/2009




My two cents: Whenever Ivan shows interest in a new skill, I pull out material and make it available for him. I don't encourage him but he usually drinks up any information until he has mastered it to whatever level his interest reaches at the time. I take the sort of montessori approach to teach what the child is open to at the time. I say sort of, because this is a loose interpretation of the "sensitive periods." I don't follow the timing they suggests but I just teach what he is interested when.

Deborah - posted on 05/17/2009




You know me ... so I can be on the fence about teaching more advanced stuff for fear of what is to come BUT with that said ... I also look to Katelyn for clues of what she wants to learn and Aiden is clearly cluing you in so I wouldn't hesitate to teach him what he wants to learn.

The way I handle her curiosity about the above things: very informal instructions. When she shows interest I take the time to explain it to her but not really sit her down. She adds that info to her memory bank and later on she asks more questions. It might take time to really teach her but I feel more comfortable with this approach.


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Rebekah - posted on 06/03/2009




We're just coming off winter here, but we've had plenty of rainy days lately keeping us inside. We did indoor swimming once a week, which was nice. We're lucky as our gym has childcare where he can run around while I'm exercising, so that helped a bit too. Otherwise, put on music and dance about; indoor games such as hopscotch (with tape) Hullabaloo or Hyperdash get a little of the energy out. And there were lots of days this winter where his physical activity was pretty much marching around the kitchen about 50 times. Of course I'm not sure if mine knows how to walk -- he's been running everywhere since about 9 months, so it's up and down the halls and stairs and from one room to another all day. :)

[deleted account]

hehe thanks Rebekah, and a big sigh too :)

I am definitely going to go get that priddy book - I saw it in the shops before and totally forgot all about it (man I LOVE those priddy books!) And I am going to do the time thing that you have suggested too.

I am so worried that he is bored lately - he just wants to play on the computer (playhousedisney and starfall) or watch tv (playhouse disney or cbeebies).

He loves reading still, and is trying so deserately to write but he just won't use the proper pencil grip and so struggles and then gets upset and jsut scribbles all over the page. But the other day he let me hold his hand and guide it over tracing letters, so hopefully this will encourage the writing.

He does enjoy typing random letters and words on the PC too i have to admit.

Does anyone else have the following issue though? : If Aiden does not get enough physical activity in the day he struggles to wind down for sleep.

So far I have him doing pony rides once a week (the instructor is besotted with him and has started official lessons as he communicates so nicely - apparently she doesn't usually do this before ages 4 or 5). In summer he swims but its winter here now. I also found an awesome kids music class for him and the instructor I chatted to says that she has another little girl who is also advanced and she would loe to see the two together (in the older class of course!)

But with a baby it's getting harder and harder to keep him physically active enough to tire his body out... Any ideas?

[deleted account]

thanks so much Sarah - I really like that idea the best! I will start healping learn how to teach himself :D AWesome and definitely the best long-term potential. so thanks for that!

lol@ Morag - it's NOT possible to stop the learning - even if you try very hard... hahaha

Morag - posted on 05/19/2009




I didn't think it was possible NOT to teach them when they were interested in something lol. There have been many things I have NOT wanted lil miss to learn, but sadly she has wanted to learn them and has watched me intently to do it. Her current favourite is cleaning, which sounds great in principle but a 16month old and mummy trying to clean toilets is not a condusive relationship. Knowing how to open the door is another a skill I wished that my toddler hadn't learnt, but she is so intent on that door she is there if she even gets a wiff that something door related might be occuring.

I would say if he wants to read....read away with him, teach him everything he wants to learn. I think that because our kids our gifted we over think this... but really we shouldn't. If he was like any other 2 year old, you wouldn't think twice about teaching him and encouraging learning concerning matters that interest him. Just because he is gifted doesn't mean we shouldn't do the same. I remember when I was a kid I was happiest reading and learning. The only thing that really it damaged was my interaction with children my own age, but I was never taught because my parents didn't want that to happen. But gifted children are always drawn to activities that interest them and capture their imaginations, and that should always be cultivated.

[deleted account]

thanks everyone!

We started chatting about the time today. He seems to think it is always 6 o clock (bath time in the evenings) or 11 o clock! (snack time) hahaha

Julie - posted on 05/16/2009




I always made sure my kids' environment allowed for learning, and then if they were wanting to pursue what they saw, I spent more time on it. So, for example, we have magnet letters on the fridge, foam letters in the tub, count with them to 30 when we play hide and seek,etc. If they pursue interest in what is academically available to them, then I offered more input.

[deleted account]

thanks angela. :) I think I will go ahead and teach him these skills. I mean, it's either that or watch him being bored and both of us getting more frustrated each day with each other.

Angela - posted on 05/15/2009




I have always taught my kids whatever they were interested in at the time, and I try to let them learn at their own pace (which is much faster than what I would expect anyway). I answer any questions they ask with answers appropriate to their maturity, and sometimes that leads to learning new skills. It has been different with each of my children. Mitch (now 11) learned to read much earlier than Carter (now 5), but Carter learned to write much earlier than Mitch, and he never stops. Their interests are different; their questions are different; so the order in which they learn things is different as well. I let them take the lead in learning/teaching, and we all have a great time! :-)

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