Their First Teacher is You - Part II

May 3, 2022

 Their First Teacher is You - Part 2 of a 3-part series

By guest author Rachel Giannini, Early Childhood Specialist/Video Blog Host/Early Childhood Advocate.

Little girl playing with fill and spill toy on rug with play gym in the background. Photo credit to Instagram user @5littlebirds_.

Photo credit to @5littlebirds_ . Toy featured: Toadstool Cottage

You are everything to your child. Cook, caregiver, entertainer, chauffeur, and teacher. Yes, teacher! In fact, you are your child’s first and best teacher. This is because 80% of your child’s brain is developed before they reach the age of three and 90% by the time they are five. With one million neurological connections being made every second, every moment can be a teachable moment in the life of a small child. While that may sound like a lot of pressure, fear not! You are a natural teacher! But in case you are looking for some activities to do with your little one, here are a few personal favorites!

3 - 6 months

Remember how I mentioned that your little one would start exploring everything with their mouths? Yeah, I meant everything. And while it may seem super gross to you, it is super important for their development. To start, it is their way of exploring their environment. Your child is still getting the hang of their hands. Grasping, poking, smooshing skills have yet to be mastered. However, your child's mouth has more nerve endings per square millimeter than any other part of their body, making it the perfect tool for exploration. By putting objects in their mouth, they investigate textures, strengthen their 5 senses, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Baby girl holding and chewing on an Atom Teether toy while seated. Follow the embedded link to visit the Atom Teether toy's product page.

Toy feature: Atom teether

Here are a few ways you can help in this exploration and work on early literacy skills. During tummy time, place a few toys slightly out of range from your little one’s grasp; this will begin prepping them for the crawling stage. Once they’ve reached their destination, and that toy has hit their lips, start providing rich vocabulary. “I can see you put the toy in your mouth.” “What does it feel like?” “Is it smooth?” “What does it taste like?” While your child will not verbally answer you, you are prepping them for future conversations and providing a robust vocabulary. Great job, teacher!

A teachable moment doesn’t mean you walk around with a globe, microscope, and a thesaurus. It means that you talk to your child. It means pointing out shapes, colors, and animals. It means singing to your little one and reading stories. It means doing all the things that you are already probably doing. Remember, you’re amazing, and you’ve got this!

Read Part III:  6 - 12 Months

About Rachel Giannini:

Rachel Giannini is an early childhood educator with over a decade in the classroom, an early childhood specialist, advocate, and a video blog host. She currently splits her time as a public speaker, early childhood commentator, curriculum designer, and the star of Spy School on Hellosaurus.

Rachel's writing, expertise, and videos have appeared in Vox, The New York Times, HuffPost, Child Care Exchange, and Chicago Parent. Rachel has a BA in Early Child Education and over ten years in the classroom. She also has an MFA in Museum Education from the University of Illinois and is a volunteer hospital magician for Open Heart Magic.

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