What is usually the first word a baby will utter?  You are correct; it’s either “ma ma” or “da da.” 

And there are two reasons for this.  First, because babies are developmentally capable of saying these two sounds; and second, because these are usually the words they hear most frequently.  This addresses two very important concepts when thinking about child development, namely developmental readiness and the idea of creating a culture of learning and growth in your home.

Babies, toddlers, and pre-school children will all develop at different times. 

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Just as some babies begin to crawl earlier than others, some toddlers will learn numbers, letters, and other cognitive functions more quickly than other kids. 

In fact, a recent Washington Post article stated that toddlers are often forced to learn concepts before they are developmentally ready. The article further quoted authors of a study who suggested we could harm our children if we set unrealistic learning goals. 

So try not to compare your child’s abilities with others and, instead, create an environment in which toddlers will be able to shape their cognitive development and behaviors. 

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One of the most powerful ways to develop a toddler’s cognitive abilities, social aptitudes, and personal attributes is through experience and their home culture. 

Lots of interaction with parents, relatives, friends, and other children can be an effective way of developing skills and strategies. 

For example, while providing child care to a toddler who was six months older than our two-year-old daughter, our daughter’s vocabulary expanded greatly because she was regularly interacting with a child who had a much more developed vocabulary. 

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If parents practice fundamental cognitive skills (such as counting, learning letters, etc.) on a regular basis, then your child will grow.  If your home environment is positive, kind, and friendly, then your child will be more likely to adopt those traits. 

You can read more about developing positive behaviors by clicking here

See what your child is capable of learning with guidance and encouragement.  Start with easier tasks, and if you find that your toddler is unable to master something, make the task even easier. 

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For instance, see if your toddler can count to 5.  If she is skipping numbers or can’t remember the proper order, then try counting to 3 instead. 

It is also important to continually circle back to the learning.  Ask any elementary school teacher if kids forget and teachers will definitely answer yes!  Toddlers are no different. 

For example, after initially teaching shapes, come back to it regularly to see if they can recognize triangles, ovals, and other shapes in future play sessions.  If they are not developmentally ready to fully comprehend, then come back to it a week or month later and you may experience success that time around!  Don’t put a timeline on learning and don’t be surprised if they forget something you thought they knew.

Repeated exposure will eventually result in learning and your child will develop as you foster a creative, fun, and playful environment. 

For more advice on how to get your Children ready for Kindergarten, you can read these articles:



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Jeff & Annie Wiesman

Dr. Jeff & Annie Wiesman are coauthors of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” Jeff is an associate professor of education who mentors future elementary school teachers, and Annie has numerous years of experience teaching preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. They reside in New York with their five-year-old daughter.



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