So apparently, children who aren’t stimulated enough in the early years 0-5 can be ‘set back decades’. Cue lots of parents panicking, putting on Baby Einstein, turning up Mozart and teaching their one year olds Mandarin.
I’m not a big fan of these kinds of studies. I think they heap more pressure on parents who already have enough and don’t always address the average parent. The majority of us are trying to do the best by our kids. Because they’re our kids, right? And isn’t daily life stimulating enough for them? I know mine just enjoy being with me, whatever I’m doing. We read the odd book, play the odd game and watch a lot of Netflix. I feel they’re doing fine.
But anyway, I decided to do an experiment and spend a whole day (ahem) actively stimulating my 20 month old toddler. Here’s how that went.
1. ‘Let’s do a puzzle!’
Me: ‘Shall we do a puzzle? Look it’s a Peppa Pig one. Your favourite! Here’s how the pieces fit together. Do you want to try?’
Him: ‘NO.’ Picks up puzzle pieces, throws them in various directions before waddling off to the cutlery drawer, emptying it out and trying to stab himself with a knife.
What we learned: Knives are sharp. And I should probably start child-proofing.
2. ‘Let’s do some make-believe!’
Me: ‘Do you want to play with the big red fire engine. Brrrmmmmmm!’
Him: ‘Nope.’ Wanders off and returns wearing one welly, carrying a spirit level. Which he waves around and almost knocks himself out with, until I confiscate it and ruin his life.
What we learned: There are many ways to hurt yourself. But it’s fun trying all of them. Just because you can.
3. ‘Let’s read a book!’
Me: ‘Do you want to read a book together?’
Him: Reverses up and plonks himself in my lap. I try to read the book, pointing out lots of stimulating words (so he knows the 200 words he is apparently supposed to know by age three), whilst he flicks voraciously through the book pressing all the noisy sounds.
What we learned: Who gives a toss about the plot or increasing your vocabulary when you can make a noise?
4. ‘Let’s eat!’
Me: ‘Dinnertime! I’ve made you some yummy pasta with salmon.’ All those Omega-3s are brilliant for stimulating brain function. He’s going to be a genius.
Him: Eats two mouthfuls before tipping it on the floor and asking for ‘Choc choc.’
What we learned: He’s probably NOT going to be a genius. And I’ve got to clean the floor. Again.
My toddler has a MUCH better idea of how to stimulate himself than I do. Admittedly it mainly involves trying to injure himself. But as long as I’m there to stop that from happening, I think I’m going to take his lead. I mean, who wants to do a Peppa Pig puzzle when you can walk around wearing ONE light up welly wielding a spirit level sword?
In summary? Relax. Keep doing whatever you’re doing.
You’re doing just fine.