Top 5 Activities for Early Childhood Development – Part 1

Was it only 3 and a half years ago when I wondered what I could do as a parent to help bring out the best in my child?  Since then we have come across so many different early childhood development programs that it can be quite overwhelming for new parents to know what you should get into. Early childhood development programs are both costly and time consuming. In a Utopian world, parents would be able to do them all with their children. Unfortunately, it isn’t a Utopian world and we need to be selective about the programs we choose.

If I could go back and choose the programs all over again, these are the ones I would do with the kids:

Sign Language

With all the benefits that Sign Language offers, I honestly can’t think of a reason not to Sign with your kids. I would also start this as young as possible. Sign Language is easy to learn and it’s fun.

There are many Sign Language books available to help you get started, but I prefer watching videos because it is easier to see how to sign the word properly. There are many Sign Language programs and DVDs that you can choose from, but the only one I’ve tried is Signing Time and the kids and I love it.

Even though Gavin can speak at a hundred words a minute, we still watch Signing Time together and listen to the songs in the car. We sign the words to each other and we have a lot of fun singing his favourite songs over and over. Although you don’t need Signing Time to teach your kids how to Sign, I like the program because it is a fun way to learn and teach Sign Language.

Aside from Signing Time, I also use ASL Pro.  It is a free online Sign Language dictionary that teaches you how to sign words with short video clips. Whenever I forget how to sign a word or if there is a word we use often but don’t know the sign for it, I will look it up on ASL Pro then teach it to the kids. I have also included a list of other free Sign Language resources under Figur8 Sign Language Resources that you can use.

An easy way to get started with Sign Language is to look up how to sign a few common words that your child is interested in and use those signs whenever you say the word. For example, if your child loves eating bananas, you can sign banana as you ask, “Would you like to eat a banana?” Or if your child loves looking at fish, you can sign fish as you say, “Let’s go look at the fish!” As you get familiar with these signs, look up more signs and introduce those to your child.

Music

I highlighted the benefits of learning music in a fairly recent post so I won’t get into it here – you can click the link to read it if you haven’t already. To really derive the full benefits of learning music, I think it is important for a child to learn how to play an instrument.  It doesn’t matter which instrument so long as it is an instrument rather than a generalised overview of music.

So far, we’ve looked at the Yamaha Music Kids program, the Kindermusik program and the Suzuki Method. So far, I like the latter best. I have recently came across another music program which I will be writing about soon but you can check it out here if you can’t wait – it is called Piano Wizardry Academy. I still think the Suzuki Method is the way to go, but the Piano Wizardry Academy looks like a good alternative if you can’t get to a Suzuki class.

You don’t have to jump straight into music lessons if you don’t have the time. Just exposing your children to music and enjoying music together is already a great start. This is where I find the Signing Time program doubles up – listening and singing along to the songs is also a music activity for us.

Another music activity which I think is good is to introduce your children to classical music so they can hear the various musical instruments within an orchestra. If you’re worried that classical music can be a bit heavy, then buy a selection of classical works for kids – there are lots of classical music CDs for children that play the lighter, more popular pieces that are easier to listen to. Even if you buy a CD with the top 100 Favourite Classical Pieces, your child is sure to hear a lot of familiar music that have been adapted and used in commercials, movies, etc. Gavin once recognised a piece of music that was playing in the background at the shopping mall that he had heard on the Little Einsteins.

The Little Einsteins was a program that I didn’t mind Gavin watching because they introduced music, geography, art and animals. The show also encouraged team work. Each episode would introduce a short snippet from a famous composer and feature that music throughout the program. If you’re observing the “no TV for young children” rule, then you can play a piece from your Top 100 CD and teach your child interesting facts about that composer. While listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, I told Gavin that Beethoven was an amazing man because he wrote music even though he was deaf and that he “heard” the music by feeling the vibrations through the piano.

Part 2 tomorrow…

Comments

  1. A very engaging and topical writeup. Its nice to see such a article which brings out all facets in such a succinct way..Shalini Mishra -Education Nest (www.educationnest.com)

  2. Thanks! Yeah, sometimes there are just so many activities out there that you could fill up every minute of your child’s day and still there’d be more stuff that your child hasn’t tried.

  3. Irene Ng says:

    Hey this is a good summary. Recently I was also thinking about what I should have done with Ben if I were to advised other new Mummies…!