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Good Parenting: Brilliant Baby

Headshot2011Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Brilliant Baby

Dr. Wood,

Our 1-year-old daughter, “Alberta,” born just over a year ago, has been walking since 10 months and said her first words at around 8 months. Now she is saying about 10 words (ni night, mama, daddy, done, uh-oh, thank you, please, noni – her name for her brother, cat, dog), and some of the alphabet letters, points out shapes and is starting to just rapidly do new things every day. What are your suggestions on how I can help her to continue to develop? I home school my older children. Should I start a preschool program early with her when she is 2 instead of 3?

Her brothers are 8 and 2 and she plays right along with her 2-year-old brother and LOVES looking at books and doing puzzles.

Thank you,

Her Mama

Click here to browse Chesapeake Family’s preschools directory.

Dear Mama,

How wonderful that your little girl seems to love learning and that you seem to enjoy her rapid intellectual development. Her 2-year-old brother seems to be a built-in role model/play mate. How nice! Since you say you are homeschooling both the 8-year-old and the 2-year-old, I’m guessing she’s content to play by herself at times while you give attention to her brothers. She must have an undemanding disposition.

Preschool can be a wonderful enrichment to a toddler’s life, especially if her social-emotional development is keeping pace with her intellect. In thinking ahead to enrolling in preschool, you would need to be sure she can be comfortable with caregivers besides yourself. This is part personality, and part building up her security. For now, she needs to know she can get you if she needs you. But you can also build some relationships with adults and small children beyond her family. Perhaps another homeschool family has children with similar ages to yours?

Play time between two 1-year-olds still will need close supervision since they are apt to want to imitate each other – this can cause grabbing of toys out of the other child’s hands. So long as you have duplicates, and plenty of adult attention, they will be gaining social skills with repeat visits with each other.

In looking for a two or three-morning-a-week preschool program, be sure it will provide ample play time in a stimulating environment. Indoor and outdoor play are both important. Teacher-led activities need to be balanced with self-directed play. The standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children will help you choose a good program. A cooperative preschool – with parents taking turns to be the assistant – is a nice option. There are also numerous once-a-week programs for parent and child, focusing on art, music, science, gymnastics, etc. to help a two-year-old become comfortable around other children and to help her accept a “teacher” without having to leave her beloved parent.

There are many fun learning experiences for her at home, though. If you arrange your kitchen cabinets well she can spend time exploring objects in the lower shelves and drawers. Endless entertainment can come from such common kitchen objects as unbreakable bowls, plastic containers, not-too-heavy pots, wooden spoons and crab mallets. She will enjoy a few props and dress-ups for imitating family and community roles – playing house, store, doctor’s office – with her dolls, her brother, or you. In the spring, a garden has many lessons for a home schooling family, and lots of sensory experiences for your little ones. Cooking incorporates all subject areas and is a practical life skill as well. It also holds tasks for a toddler. A 1-year-old can use a potato masher to blend the ingredients of egg salad, rip lettuce leaves, and push the button on the food processor to make a smoothie.

Since she gets along so well with her brother, were you thinking of enrolling them in the same class? There are some schools that have mixed-age classes, and it would give your daughter an extra level of comfort to have her brother around. (I have an early memory of being age two, and being left with my sister’s preschool class while my mother ran an errand. It was playground time. I felt safe amidst the many children running around, but kept tabs on my sister the whole time!)

Preschool registration usually begins in February for the next school year. Some programs allow children to begin at any time if there are openings. So although she won’t be two for almost another full year, it might be time to scout out your options and sign up for a spot – or two!

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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