We are so pleased to welcome back Cribsters’ resident educational consultant and mother of two, Debbie McWhorter, MST, MSEd. Debbie spent several years as an elementary school teacher and administrator in the New York City public school system before becoming an educational consultant. In her nearly nonexistent free time, Debbie conducts support groups for women suffering from postpartum depression, as well as acts as a co-head of her son’s Parent Teacher Association. Today Debbie shares her expertise on how to educate your child in your non-existent free time.
We’ve all had that moment – you are chatting with your fellow moms at preschool drop-off, or hanging around a playgroup, drinking your
wine coffee, when the well-meaning mother next to you divulges some very scandalous information. Her sweet, precious child is really struggling with his colors/numbers/quantum physics, and she is fretting about whether he is falling behind his peers and will ever get into Harvard. If you are anything like me, you politely smile and nod, and immediately start thinking, “S#!t, I don’t know if my kid even knows where her head is, let alone the difference between fuchsia and magenta!” No need to fret. The truth is, you don’t need to drill your little darling for hours with flash cards and $100 kits that promise to teach your 9 month old to be smarter than a 5th grader. Here are some simple ways you can strengthen your child’s knowledge and basic concepts. These are simple life hacks that don’t even have to be done with any regularity – just when it crosses your mind and you feel a bit of supermom coming on.
The Supermarket: Oh, the glorious supermarket. I appreciate the Zen of strolling down the aisle of the nearest superstore gazing at the selection in peace and quiet without my nagging children as much as the next parent. Or even better, and in the name of time management, avoiding the supermarket altogether with some nifty online shopping. But, if you have the time and the patience, the supermarket is a gold mine of “teachable” opportunities. The produce department is a veritable smorgasbord of colors, shapes and potential math problems. For the littlest ones, just saying the name and color of the fruit while putting it in the cart is enough. Count out the apples as you put them in the bag – BOOM, math! And how fun is it to finally get to be the crazy lady talking to herself? Older kids? Have your child go on a “hunt” looking for as many different types of [insert color here] fruits and vegetables as he can find. Make an actual math problem. “I have two apples, but I need 4. How many more should I put in the cart?” Added bonus: Kids stay entertained and out of your hair while you shop. Though that box of animal crackers you ripped open fresh off the shelf also helps.
Car trips: Another potentially dread-inducing parental activity that you can turn into some teachable opportunities. Read signs out loud. I used to say “S-T-O-P” at intersections while stopping. (Warning, this can get annoying when your children start correcting your driving.) Play “I Spy” with colors, shapes or things that start with a certain sound. Compete to see who can find the most yellow cars before reaching your destination. Added Bonus: Kids are looking out the windows and won’t throw handfuls of cereal that will undoubtedly stay in your backseat for months. Being occupied may also help them avoid a bout of car sickness that also seems to linger in the backseat for months.
Television: Oh, no! I said the dreaded “T” word. We’ve all heard the warnings, and a brave few have actually heeded the “no screen time” recommendations. But for those of us who have gone to the dark side, there are ways to engage and educate your child while still utilizing those precious few minutes of calm to organize your life. Pick a few stock questions that come up in every episode of their favorite shows to ask them throughout. For example, “Which one is Bert and which one is Ernie? How can you tell? What color is Big Bird? What is Blue looking for today? What colors are the Bubble Guppies? How many of them are there?” Added bonus: You don’t have to actually watch the show to ask the questions – freeing you up to frost that cake, gaze wistfully at your Pinterest page, or perhaps even go to the bathroom solo.
Now, I can’t guarantee that these activities will make your kid a genius. But the next time that well-meaning mom pipes up and asks if your little darling can figure out the slope of 1x+2y, you can confidently respond, “maybe not, but you can bet your butt he knows the difference between a cantaloupe and a honeydew melon.” Clean up on aisle 4….