Today, I’m welcoming a guest post from Rachel Tomas, a writer at www.babysitting.net.
From the very moment I found out that I was pregnant I began talking with my child. We talked about everything I was doing or thinking. I also sang to them and read out loud when I was reading and I also prayed with them and for them. I knew that they could hear everything, I really did not think about how much they understood, but I wanted them to know everything. Even when my hormones began to wreck havoc on me and I would cry I made sure I told them that it had nothing to do with them, and that I loved them very much.
There has been a lot of research about how much babies actually understand and learn. Some of the research is astounding but since we do not know for absolute sure I am of the school of thought that we should give it all we have got.
My first child was a girl and when she began to talk (more than just a word or two here and there) around nine months or so she seemed to understand so many things we had already discussed. She was so compassionate and sensitive and when I would sing to her it relaxed her so much and when we prayed she got still and quiet. She also loved to sit and listen to anyone read. You could read her the dictionary or a child’s book; it made no difference to her. Her memory was brilliant, after reading her a children’s book she could turn the pages and say it word for word as if she was reading. She turned the pages at exactly the right time and people who would see her would be shocked, thinking that she was actually reading at nine months!
I also talked to them when they were stretching in the womb. My daughter’s feet would come out one side clearly and her head on the other. I would pat her and tell her she was pushing too hard and she would stop. My son was a wiggle worm and he moved most of the night (of course) and we would have long talks about him settling down! I knew he was going to be a handful when he came out. And I was right because he is older now and he can never sit still. He has had a hard time getting his body to settle down all his life. I sang to him quite a bit in the womb and when he was born I sang to him to get him to settle down at night.
Whether it is understanding or just familiarity to the sound of singing I do not know but I do know that it does help after they are born. The get to know the sound of your voice, and even if you can not sing (like me) the sound of your singing can comfort them when they are out of the safety of the womb.
After my children were born we continued to talk about everything. As we rode along in the car I talked to them about driving rules and regulations, car safety, and how important it was that they stayed in their car seats. When we went grocery shopping I talked to them about the selections I was making and why, the prices and how you determine the best deal, and what we were making for dinner that night.
Whatever I was doing with my child I was talking to them. They seemed to love to hear me talk and as they grew they loved it when I made up stories to tell them at story time or bedtime. It was so cute to watch each of my children relate to stories. My daughter loved hand puppets and talked to them as though they were alive, even though she assured me she knew they were not; she has an amazing imagination. My son on the other hand is a practical soul and does not really like to play make believe. He is a factual kind of guy. He hated the hand puppets and emphatically told me that he knew it was me talking! We had to switch over to stuffed animals and do an animated story which made them both happy. We had a black and white cow who loved to smell the flowers in the meadow but seemed to always get close to a bee hive and get stung on the behind. This made my son extremely happy and my daughter too; I can not tell you how many times I have told that story. They still remember it today.
When out walking we talked about the different trees, leaves, and flowers we would see. We talked about the different colors we would come across as well. Everything you do is a learning experience if you talk to your children as you go along. We talked about people running, riding their bikes, skateboarding, swinging, etc. and they listened.
I guess I learned this from my mother even though I do not believe she was consciously doing it. Mom sat me on the counter in the kitchen when she was cooking and told me everything she was doing. She taught me how to make a pie from scratch when I was not old enough to see over the counter. She did that wherever we went; she talked and told us what she knew. And as I watched her when she was at home with us she was talking to my children about everything she was doing just like she did with me.
When my children spent time with Grandma they always came home having experienced some new adventure. She taught them all about nature, fishing, cooking, and inventing. Mom was the queen of invention. She could take ordinary household items and make something really exciting and fun. My son could play for over an hour with canned goods. She helped them make tracks for marbles out of wrapping paper rolls connected together. She put up a zip line in the back yard that they zipped on for years. She taught them to invent fun no matter what they had on hand. This kind of information is something they will use for the rest of their lives. And communication is the conduit that brings it all together, just telling them what you are doing and why and showing them how as you go along.
From before the time children are born they are empty vessels waiting to be filled. When they are in the womb or after they are born and are completely reliant on you is a perfect opportunity to talk uninterrupted! And then when they are old enough to communicate you can share interests with them as you go. So many times with a toddler it is so much easier to stop them from a tantrum by talking to them and changing the subject with something new and interesting than it is to dispel the tantrum.
Once when my daughter was about three and my nephew was visiting who was two I watched an interaction they had in amazement. He was the type of child who wanted anything that you had and tried to grab it away. I saw him take my daughter’s toy and then watched as she let him and quietly walked away. She picked up another toy and became delighted with it and he came running over, abandoning the first toy. She again let him have her toy and then walked over and discretely picked up her original toy and sat down with her back to him to play. At the time I was not sure if this was a good idea, manipulation at its finest, but then I realized that is what I had been doing. Perfect case scenario proving that they do understand and they do learn from us at a very early age. It made me a lot more sensitive to the things I was saying and doing after watching my daughter at work!
Children need the stimulation of communication and information very early on. Most of us learn by repetition, by hearing, seeing, or doing something over and over again. Our children are the same but they do not have to re-learn like we do, they are empty slates on which we can write so we as parents need to make sure we are utilizing the times when we can teach. And the fact that our voices, our talking, our teaching gives them security and comfort is a plus. Because a happy child, a secure child, can soak up knowledge and retain it and excel.
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.