Every day in a playful way we do counting and reading the alphabet. Just lately, I have begun trying to come up with ideas of how to keep her attention long enough to sit and practice writing and working with her hands. She is very active and has a difficult time sitting still for any time at all. I think the impatient professionals would dub her “hyperactive”.
I do not want to make learning a burden to her, so I try to think of creative ways to make it delightful play. Most recently, while my husband was away on a business trip, I told Gracie, “Let’s make Daddy a card.” We were both excited about this idea, so for the next two hours Gracie was completely engrossed in copying and sounding out letters and drawing pictures. She was learning but without even knowing she was learning. We both had a great time doing our Daddy Project. More importantly, I had learned more about my child and how to keep her engaged in learning.
Everyone needs some kind of motivation to force themselves to learn new things. The younger the child, the more immediate the reward needs to be. Telling a three-year-old that when she is twenty, she will want to know how to write and read is not going to work. Writing a card for Daddy who is expected home any day was enough motivation to cause her to enjoy the challenge of learning and writing. Children are very short term in many of their behaviors and emotions. A day is a long time. If I just tell her to sit down and write letters over and over again so she will know how to read some day, she would dread the idea of school. But when we write a note to Mama Pearl, or a thank-you note to one of her little friends, she is highly motivated, because there is an immediate connection to the goal that is set before her.
Yesterday, we were making a cake together when Gracie said to me, “Mom, cake starts with a KA. Did you know that?” I laid the spoon down and said, “Let’s write it with our letters that Kathy gave us.”
We went to the refrigerator and moved the magnetic letters around spelling out the word CAKE. While we were there, she re-did words that we had made earlier in the week: EGG, MILK, CEREAL, DOG.
It is a great experience teaching my little girl to love to read. I look forward daily to us learning together. If I do it right, she will never dread learning, but will value it as a thrilling adventure. I know it is for me.
Shalom is the second daughter of Michael and Debi Pearl