Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

How much is too much and how much is not enough?

on August 5, 2012

I hear mums all the time ask how much help to give your child. Do you teach them to read as soon as they reach for a book? Or do you let the school take care of that? How much do you need to help them and how much do you let go and let them control the learning?

So many three and four year old kindergartens out there these days have the same philosophy – child-centred, child-led and child-oriented learning. Let the children guide the learning, let the children set the standard, let the children be the controller of their education and you, the parent, or I, the teacher, merely facilitate that learning.

I have to say I disagree with the way education in the state of Victoria is headed…I don’t know if it is taking the same path in other states. I see myself as a teacher and that is what I am there to do. I see you as the parent and the most important influence in your child’s life. Together, without this opinion that we “let the children lead the way”, we could do so much more for them and with them.

I believe that as children grow older, we should facilitate their learning of concepts more and expose them to more. A toddler will not know what a piano is if they are not shown one, shown what it is used for and shown how to use it. A three year old will not know the correct way to hold or treat a book if they have never been shown. A four year old will be completely overwhelmed if the first letter they learn about is in school.  We need to teach children, not just let them show us what they know, which is the most recent early childhood belief gaining increasing popularity.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe in a previous life I was a tough-as-nails headmistress from 1912?

But let’s face it; the most rapid phase of a child’s development occurs in their first five years of life. We have such a short time to expose children to so much of the world. I’m not saying they need to learn everything by the time they are five. I’m saying that if this is when this child is developing the most, why not take advantage of that and show them how a calculator works? If they pick up what you’re “teaching” them, they pick it up. If not, fine! Why can’t I teach my kindergarteners the names of the planets instead of waiting for them to ask me and “lead” the learning? Is that not my job?

All that said, I don’t believe in pushing a child to learn and I don’t believe in forcing them to learn something they have no interest in. You might’ve been netball champion for seven years running but it doesn’t mean your child will be. I certainly don’t think I’m alone in that viewpoint.

So I guess what I’m saying is exposure and facilitation of learning is paramount if you are to teach your little ones and prepare them for life. A lot of this happens incidentally so don’t stress! But there are so many other things you can do along the way. Here are a few ideas:

  1. If you play an instrument, show it to them, sit with them when you play it, show them how to use it and what happens when you push this button or pluck that string or hit that cymbal. Let them try it on their own as they are able.
  2. Have books around the house. In the age of computers, iPads and Kindles we want children to still grow up surrounded by pages. Read to them often and sit with them when they want to ‘read’ to you – even if they get every word wrong or if they’re reading so slowly it gets painful! Encourage trips to the library where they can choose their own books and let them have a little ‘library’ in their own space.
  3. Point out numbers – on the microwave, on the clock, on licence plates, on tv. As they grow older, start to talk about what the numbers mean and begin to ask them questions that involve a bit of problem solving. What number comes next? What number comes before it? Add on two more…etc etc. If they don’t know the answer, that’s fine! Count with them and find out together!
  4. Go on outings with your child – to the zoo, the aquarium, the farm, the city – and point out various things and ask lots of questions. Let your child explore, discover and spend time at the areas they are interested in.

For other ideas, or for suggestions on blog topics, please email me at


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