I saw a post recently on a Facebook mom’s group and it broke my heart. I have had a hard time getting it out of my mind…I feel for the mom and the anxiety she now has from an end of the year preschool evaluation but more than that, I feel for our children and the overwhelming amount of academic pressure we place on them from a very, very young age. The post read, ‘My ALMOST (emphasis added) three year old had his end of the year preschool evaluation today and I’m crushed. They said he is behind, has a hard time focusing, doesn’t recognize the letters in his name like the other kids…..” I want to break down these concerns and briefly reflect upon each comment.

He is behind…behind in what? He is TWO. This article from WebMD states the milestones of a typically developing 2 year old https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/child-at-2-milestones#1 and a 3 year old https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/child-at-3-milestones#1 As stated in the article, keep in mind that milestones are guidelines -- children reach each milestone at their own pace. Some kiddos have these skills before age of 2 or 3, some later. Still, if these milestones give you concerns that your child might be falling behind, talk to your child’s doctor.

He doesn’t know the letters in his name. It is not developmentally appropriate to expect a 2-3 year old to know any letters or their sounds…they are still putting these sounds together to form words and sentences.

He has a hard time focusing. Most kiddos have the attention span equal to their age. A two year old has an attention span of 2 minutes, a 3 year old 3 minutes, until they get older, mature and can engage in activities / lessons for longer periods of time. If your two year old has an attention span of 2 minutes….that is normal and typical. Keep in mind the attention span referenced is for an engaging activity…not something they don’t want to do or are not able to do yet.

Have you ever read the book, Leo The Bloomer, Robert Kraus? Take a look:

Sometimes our little ones need a little more time to bloom than other children. No amount of pressure or watching will speed this blooming up….we do recommend playing with and engaging with your child, versus just watching TV like Leo’s dad though. :)

With all of this being said, even though most little ones develop normally, albeit at different rates, there are many types of Learning Differences (LD) that affect about 8-10% of children under the age of 18. Early intervention is key and so important to help your child develop the skills necessary to continue to learn in-spite of these differences. If you suspect that your child has a Learning Difference it is best to talk to your pediatrician and see about getting him / her evaluated by a specialist. WebMD has a great article on Learning Differences and some early indicators along with first steps if you suspect your child has an LD. https://www.webmd.com/children/guide/detecting-learning-disabilities#1

The rest of the post read, ‘PLEASE tell me everything to help him over the summer. Flash cards, games, puzzles, etc. I will buy it all.’ I love that this mom is willing to do whatever it takes to help her little one. Most of us are! He will certainly benefit from this one-on-one time together…the benefits will not necessarily be from the actual flashcards or puzzle though, it will be the time you spend talking with your little one about what he / she is doing which in turn further develops their language skills. In the smae way, making an obstacle course will help to develop gross motor skills and allowing unstructured imaginative play will cultivate creativity. Help your little ones develop a love for learning by making it fun and natural…never forced and don’t get frustrated if it takes your little one longer than you think it should or longer than siblings / peers to learn new skills.

One of the most important things you can do for you little one is making sure the early childhood programs they attend are ‘developmentally appropriate’. What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) states, “Developmentally Appropriate Practice is informed by what we know from theory and literature about how children develop and learn.” In its Developmentally Appropriate Practice Key Messages of the Position Statement, NAEYC shares the following in defining DAP:

  • Developmentally appropriate practice requires both meeting children where they are—which means that teachers must get to know them well— to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable.

  • All teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live.

  • Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things easier for children. Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their learning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest.

  • Best practice is based on knowledge—not on assumptions—of how children learn and develop. The research base yields major principles in human development and learning. Those principles, along with evidence about curriculum and teaching effectiveness, form a solid basis for decision making in early care and education.

Lastly, check out this article (https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/parenting-preschoolers-mistakes#1) on the most common mistakes parents make with young children. We couldn’t agree more with point #6: Underestimating the Importance of Play.

Many parents feel they should sign their children up for enrichment programs to give them an edge. But that's not really the case. What's most enriching at this age, says psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, is free play. That includes dramatic play (make believe), rough housing, and goofing around. "Free play is how children's brains develop best," he says. "In play, children will naturally give themselves the right amount of challenge -- not too easy or too hard." Fix it: Allow your child time and space for free play.

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Can you see all the unstructured learning opportunities in the picture above!? What do you think this little one is thinking about / learning? Some of the opportunities we see are counting, sorting, patterning, color recognition, balancing, focusing, eye-hand coordination and building confidence. What do you see?