Q&A with Karen Taylor

Get Answers to Your Questions
About Learning with Preschoolers

With Karen Taylor

Question: I have a 3 year old. Because the dynamic of our household has changed, I am not able to spend as much "learning" time with him as I did with his older brother and sister. Is there a way to tell how much time I should spend familiarizing him with certain subjects, such as colors and alphabet recognition? It seems that we either do too much and he doesn't retain, or we do too little for too long and he is uninterested in the "new" stuff.

Answer: I think many parents worry about the youngest child. With the first child, we have loads of time, but with each additional child, there can be less time to spread around. I'm not worried at all about your 3-year-old, as long as you are talking and reading to him daily. That is pretty simple to do, and you can do it while you are spending time doing whatever is needed with your older children.

A three-year-old doesn't need formal learning time. Not only doesn't need it, but will benefit in not having it! He does need lots of play time, along with a chance to talk to adults who love him.

Instead of lessons or workbooks, talk to him, and also listen and respond to his questions.

Instead of lessons about colors, include names of colors in your conversation with him. Make it simple and matter of fact, and he'll learn them before you know it! When you walk out of your room in the morning, you can simply say "I felt like wearing my red shirt today!" Make it casual and get in the habit of using descriptive sentences when you speak to him, and he'll catch on quickly.

Reading is also so important for language development. Even if it's just one bedtime story, take time to read at least one picture book every day. You can also read a story while he plays in the bathtub! The more you read, the better, so look for opportunities to snuggle up and read! There's much more value to that than a lesson at this age.

If you are reading chapter books to your older children, he will probably be listening and enjoying even if it appears he's not paying attention. He may be playing on the floor, but still enjoying the story.

Stories on CD are also loved by many children, and you can often find some at the library. Jim Weiss has recorded stories for young children, so you might look at his website for ideas.

Learning the joy of hearing a good story is much more important than learning the actual alphabet. Schools used to wait until children were 6 to begin to teach the alphabet, and now we have preschools doing it! Try to resist the urge to teach the alphabet unless your child passionately wants to know it. For most preschoolers, language development through talking and reading is going to give them their best academic start — and it's so easy to do during the day!

Take advantage of mini-moments throughout the day, instead of planned lessons for your preschooler, and then you won't have to worry if you are doing enough or too much. A young child who is not retaining what you have taught is being given something that he's just not interested in or not ready to learn yet.

Do not worry if your child isn't being taught the same things that preschoolers are taught in schools. Our kids are developing a strong and rich foundation that will make them great l earners when they are older!

Enjoy your little guy — you're giving him a great start!

About Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor provides regular homeschooling information and mentoring on Facebook and she is the director of Cedar Life Academy, a Private School Satellite Program (PSP) for homeschoolers in California.

Karen would like to know your questions and concerns about living and learning with young children. Send them to her at KarenTaylor@UniversalPreschool.com. She'll address them in the next issue of this ezine.