Last month, I took my daughter to the paediatrician for her regular round of vaccinations. As we were wrapping up, I ask, "So, what should we be doing next?" The doc's probably younger than I am, but he manages to give me the deadly serious stare of a 70-year-old brigadier-general.
"The 3 B's", he says solemnly.
After the age of 1, my daughter learnt to move around, grab, taste, make noises, identify objects, and interact with the world around-our home, furniture, people and things. Basically, everything physical.
Now, books (the durable, cardboard-paged books that she can't chew on, the way she tries chewing everything else) with bright colors, shapes, animals, etc, would help her develop a whole new part of her brain-the ability to think and reason in abstract terms. She knows what a ball is, but recognising a ball from a picture opens up a new doorway in her mind. She would understand that 'This thing' (the picture) means 'that thing' (the ball).
It's a huge, huge leap. It's the first step to learning, to the whole concept of using symbols and meanings. One of the key things that make us human.
Talking of being human...
Humans build and make things. I've given her a bunch of different toys that fit together-soft, padded 3D shapes, large plastic blocks, a baby Lego kit. So far, she has become proficient (and gleeful) at tearing apart anything I build, but hopefully she's soon going to start building on her own.
Like books, blocks teach abstract concepts too-3 pieces put together could be a car, a dog, a house. It could be anything the imagination wants to create. This way, 2 things come to pass:
- Simple manual dexterity, using fingers, thumbs and eyes (basic motor skills).
- She's learning to visualise what can be, from what is. Want a house? Put together the walls, floor, roof. Want a car? Find the bits with wheels, windows, or bumpers. Imagine a concept and then make it happen. She's learning to be imaginative, to make her own stories, using her own toys. She doesn't need a lot of toys, cluttering up the house and emptying out my wallet.
"Yes, we're teaching her not to scream or throw tantrums, and..." I tell the doc.
To which he replies, "Not her behaviour, yours."
We've become so used to seeing her as just a baby wanting food, sleep and comfort, that we sometimes forget she's also becoming a person unto herself. One day she's going to grow up to be just like us, and even if we forget it, she hasn't. She watches us all the time. Everything she knows about how to behave, how to speak, how to be, she's learning from us.
Whether we, as her parents, shout and fight, watch TV for hours without talking, spend the weekend glued to the laptop, work long hours and come home when she's asleep... Or if we go for walks, talk politely, read, socialise, make time to spend with her and each other... All these are things she's subconsciously picking up, right now. These aren't things I can teach her later by giving her a to-do list of 'How To Be A Nice Person' when she's 18.
Our behaviour today is going to be her behaviour tomorrow.
So, books, blocks, and our behaviour-these are 3 critical things that will work in developing our little ones' minds.