Early Childhood Education: Yep, I Torture my Children with Flash Cards

When it comes to early childhood education, there is one point I struggle with when I read comments like:

“Asking children to handle material that their brain is not equipped for can cause frustration.”

“If a child is forced to sit down and read flash cards but he is not capable of understanding the word yet, his brain is stressed and the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone.”

Especially when I have seen how Hercules responds to such materials. What would be considered “material that their brain is not equipped for”? Hercules watches the following video and he really enjoys it:


He especially loves the song that comes with it – it’s one of his favourite songs.


He also loves the Elements song by They Might Be Giants from Here Comes Science:


He enjoys that CD so much that he calls for “Science real, science real, science real” whenever we get into the car because that’s the name of the first song on the CD. And sometimes, he breaks into song and starts singing “come come come e’ments!” which translates to “c’mon, c’mon, come meet the elements”. He lacks the full lyrics and the tune but the reason I can recognise it is because he sings the same thing in the car when he listens to the CD.

We’re encouraged to sing to our children nursery rhymes that are sometimes meaningless so what’s the difference if we sing educational songs? As one mother once said on a forum (about Peter Weatherall’s Simple Science) – there is no more wondering about twinkle little star, now our children can learn what it is.

Since he was little, he’s loved Little Math. I’ll get onto the computer and he’ll run up to me and say, “Numbers, numbers, numbers!” Now he actually says, “Math.” He also loves his TweedleWink DVDs and right brain classes. He likes to curl up in my lap and nurse while he watches a TweedleWink lesson. When he was little, he really enjoyed the flash cards I made for him. Lately, however, he hasn’t really wanted to look at any of my flash cards except Little Reader and the Periodic Table Elements series I made for him (hence the sudden drop in new flash cards being released).

And for a child who used to chew on his books, bend back the spines, and stomp on them, he has now developed an appreciation for reading. Okay, so he still steps on the books occasionally, but he now actively brings books to me and asks me to read them for him. I can distract him from the TV by suggesting to read one of his favourite books. He enjoys listening to the stories so much that he often wants me to read his favourite stories over and over and over until I feel like a broken record. Sometimes I’m the one that cringes when he brings me a book to read.

Even though he can now string four words together, he has developed a new love for Signing Time and asks to listen to it in the car (after we’ve heard Here Comes Science on loop until everyone’s sick of it) and to watch the DVDs. We’ve done a lot of early childhood programs with him, but he’s also had a lot of free play time to pour out boxes of toys so he can sit in the box, build towers out of Lego Duplo, make piles of toys so he can throw his Angry Birds soft toys at them and re-enact a live version of the digital game, and play hide and seek and chase with his brother.

The problem that happens when a parent says they do “flash cards” or teach their young child Math (or any other subject) is that it creates this awful image of a teary-eyed child sitting at a desk being force-fed information hour upon hour while they gaze longingly out the window at the sunshine and trees. I’ve even heard a mother admit, almost apologetically, “Yes, I torture my child,” as she confessed to implementing early childhood programs at home with her child.

The reality of such home programs is that they actually take up very little time in a child’s day. It takes us the whole of 5 minutes (if that) to get through the lessons on Little Reader and Little Math. A TweedleWink lesson on DVD runs for 8 minutes. That’s 13 minutes of his whole day – it hardly eats into his play time. It isn’t black or white where a child either spends all his time studying or all his time playing. I don’t understand why the arguments for and against early childhood learning seem to paint it so.

Aristotle loves bookshops. I recently bought him some books from the MPH moving sale thinking they would last him a while and he read all of them except one in two days. I wonder if he might have finished them all in the first day if I had let him attack the bag of books. Sometimes we go to a bookshop and he sits and reads book after book and complains when we have to leave. He doesn’t even mind that Daddy takes Hercules to the jungle gym while he reads his books at the book shop.

Hercules loves numbers, science, and reading. He has a healthy curiosity (some might even say he’s too curious for his own good) and he loves to play.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

8 thoughts on “Early Childhood Education: Yep, I Torture my Children with Flash Cards

  1. I think people who don’t reallyu derstand the theory of right brain development or some parents who aren’t interested in early childhood development, they shouldn’t put their comments subject to what they thought without researching, we as a mother, we done hips of research, home works, flash cards contents/theme, following what’s might interested to our kids. Look at our children nownwho has been in reception year or K1, we don’t think they have problem in enjoys study.

    Thanks for sharing the Element song and the science songs!!


    1. My pleasure, Jo. I think the problem is that there is a tendency to generalise and assume that everyone who starts teaching their children at a young age is pushy and forcing their children to learn. I don’t doubt that it happens, but I hate that they lump every parent who believes in early childhood education into the same bag. It’s a sweeping statement designed to put off other parents from what could be a truly amazing and beautiful journey of development and love with their children.


  2. The actual fact should be these:
    If you start right flash cards only at age 5/6/7, then not only the child gets stress out but the parents too, because it is all about habitual learning style i.e. the child is not getting used to learning in voluminous within short given time. However if you have successfully taught the right method since early stage at age 0 year onwards, then this way of learning to flash cards is never an issue because by age of 3 onwards you would see the child blossoms into an young adult who not only loves reading but also hunger for knowledge. For instance who would believe a 5/6yo child could read novels as thick as 600 pages if not for early child education at age 0-3. Not one would believe unless you see your own child is picking up good reading habit with all her heart into.


    1. Excellent point, FZ. There is a tendency to assume that very young children learn like older children or even adults. Learning for us is stressful and very left-brain so it is assumed that what is the case for us must be the case for very young children. If anything, I think it is almost insulting to the amazing learning capacity of young children to make such assumptions. What adult could master skills like walking and talking starting with zero knowledge in as short a time as a child?

      The younger we start the easier it really is. Older children have already formed their own opinions about what they want to learn and are more resistent to anything that we believe they “should” learn especially if they don’t think it is interesting or relevant. Younger minds are curious and open to everything.


  3. Ha… then my sons must be sooo tortured. Have started newborn with simple flashcards too and he has good attention span on them.

    The older one loves his homeschooling including flashcards sessions, and asks me for them, even on days when I’m too busy juggling 2 boys. He’s not yet 3 and enjoys reciting, now up to 200+ Chinese words in a story book, without a single mistake, while I still can’t remember the book as accurately as him. I wished I’d learnt such good memory skills when younger, formal schooling would have been much easier and fun! 🙂


    1. MieVee – That’s the general feedback from most parents involved in early childhood development programs with their children – the kids want more, more, more! We’re the ones that have to say stop!

      I, too, wished my memory skills were as good when I was a child. I would have had so many more nights of good sleep instead of stay up late to cram for exams only to forget what I crammed a week after the exams. I read it somewhere that it’s as good as not learning the material at all so you have to wonder what’s the sense of it if that’s the case.

      I thought it was pretty telling how I felt about school when I went to check out schools for Aristotle. I remember feeling that old dread sitting like a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach and I’m not even the one who is supposed to be going to school!


  4. Hi Shen Li,
    Can you please share where can I get a copy of this CD
    “Science real, science real, science real” & the Math song?

    I think rather than to sing nursery rhymes, i can sing something meaningful for my son.
    He likes to press my lips (like pressing the home button of iPad) to ask me to sing his favorite songs
    He likes ABC, Baby Signing Time song & Tweedle Wink opening & closing songs most (the songs TW teacher would sang in the class)


    1. Hi PC,

      I bought mine from eBay. I just searched for sellers selling this CD/DVD package. It is also available on Amazon. At the time, I didn’t go to Amazon because I always assumed they don’t sell DVDs to Malaysia but someone told me they were able to purchase, so I guess it depends on the seller. Sometimes you can get it for cheaper on ebay so it’s best to check there first. If you can’t find it, then the next best chance is Amazon.

      hehe… I liked that – pressing your lips like the iPad button 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: