It is amazing how often I feel frustrated that the girls aren't getting something. I work with them regularly on learning about animals and their different sounds, modes of transportation, shapes, opposites, colors and general vocabulary. I am not a teacher and do not have a background in education of any sort, but before I became a parent I liked the idea that I could teach and mold my children. I wanted them to learn things because we worked on it through play, association and experience. Just when I think that I am talking to brick walls, they start repeating something or perform a task for the first time. It is so rewarding.
From day one, I would talk out loud about what we were doing. Whether I was changing a diaper or dressing them, I would say exactly what I was doing each time I performed a task. With a little Peanut in my arms, I would say, "Now I am going to put on your onesie. Left arm through the left hole. Right arm through through the right hole." I certainly never expected them to pick up their left and their right at 3 months of age and they haven't mastered that this day, but I try to be as descriptive as possible so they can learn many words. Also, I would talk about other things that we couldn't see like, "Where was Daddy?" Sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn't. I always told them and still do that during the weekdays, "Daddy is working."
We read lots of books, too. Peanut loves a book about animals and will point to each picture and I am supposed to say the name of the animal and will provide the sound (if I know it - do you know what sound a guinea pig makes?) Jelly Bean will "read" books all the time and sometimes I get to read them to her. Both girls point to all types of things throughout the day expecting me to tell them what they are and I know this is building their mental vocabulary databases.
We have mini "lessons" as the atmosphere invites. I wait for moments when the kids are quiet or engaged in something that I can tie to a learning opportunity. For example, if Jelly Bean is playing with the shapes and the shape sorter, I will get a hand held dry erase board or a piece of paper and draw the shapes out and name them as we look at the drawings and feel the plastic shapes. Having several examples made entirely different I think provides them a well rounded understanding about what they are learning.
Also, we do what I like to call "cross reference." Peanut really started this, but now it just makes sense. If we talk about something whether it is an animal or any object, we will look in the room for something else just like it. We have alphabet books that contain many words and pictures and usually we can find a toy or stuffed animal that is the same thing. An example of this is when we found a penguin in Peanut's animals book. She pointed to it, "Dah!" I repeated back, "Penguin." Suddenly her eyes lit up and took off for the toy shelf coming back a few seconds later with a plastic penguin that squeaks.
Jelly Bean has mastered the shape sorter now. She puts them through the correct hole like she is racing. She is starting to point to the appropriate shapes when I ask, too. I have noticed that she does well when given a job, so I will give her a basket and ask her to pick up the shapes. This is not work to her - she loves the hunt. In addition, quiet activities suit her very well, so I will always try to incorporate puzzles, legos, etc. into her learning because she finds great enjoyment in building and figuring out how to solve something.
Peanut learning style is to stay active and engaged. When she is ready to learn, I have to jump on the opportunity because she doesn't always sit still for very long. I have learned however that she is one of those type of people that used to urk me to no end. She doesn't look like she is listening, but she really is paying attention. She has the gift to run around and get into everything while still listening to the lesson and pretty much retaining everything. While Jelly Bean is sitting in front of me concentrating really hard (this is so me), Peanut is goofing off, but probably able to retain more (this is so twindada).
So, we are learning. Just when I think they aren't getting something, then, bam! We have a break through. What was impossible last month is easy this month. Jelly Bean repeats new words regularly. Peanut is picking up more words now more than ever. And just when I think that nothing new has happened, they surprise me.
No matter what, I will always be engaged in their learning. We will always encourage them and be actively involved in their education. (Hey, we will have 2 in college at the same time, we need all the scholarships we can get!) I hope the girls will be ahead in things as we get ready for pre-school and elementary, but if they are just cruising along for their age group, then we will be blessed.
Guess what happened on Friday? I was changing Peanut first thing in the morning and she said, "DaDa". So, I asked her,"Where is Dada?" She replied, "Working."
Wow, they really are listening.