As the new generation parents, am sure we all have already thought of the education system and ways of learning that we want to expose our child to…and a lot of us are keen to move to other places only to ensure that the learning is experiential, fun and not limited to text books. But why should we only depend on schools and teachers to do this for our child? There is a lot we can do ourselves that too much earlier in our child’s life!
I honestly could not fathom how a 10 month old baby would be able to use flashcards and learn things. Don’t we all think that way like a baby only knows cooing, crying and pooping at that age?! Surprise! Surprise! The tiny little brain of a baby grows, develops and absorbs the most in the early years of life! Any and every child can learn this fun way!
Flashcards work a great deal with children, especially those who have high grasping power through visual stimulation and this is precisely what we have been using with Reansh.
Firstly, black and white pattern flashcards can be introduced to a baby as early as a few weeks as their hazy vision begins to settle and they begin to see outlines.
Thereafter you can introduce flashcards of anything- fruits, vegetables, furniture, shapes, colors, birds, nature, flowers, personalities, flags, musical instruments …and the list goes on to any and everything that stimulates the visual sense of a child. Mind you it is not limited to showing pictures of things, it can also be reading flashcards with just the words, maths flashcards with dots, equations..all just flashed fast.
It may seem a little overwhelming initially. I remember trying to figure which flashcards to start with, what size of flashcards to use, what should be the frequency, how many cards should be shown at a time etc etc. I even asked about the font size that I should use in the reading flashcards to a fellow parent!
Trying to keep it simple, below is a list of things we did that worked in our experience. It may help you streamline your approach to begin with and slowly you will yourself know what works for your child and accordingly modify your approach.
1. Reansh had a few touch and feel books with big pictures and single words, that he used to enjoy going through every now and then. So if your infant enjoys seeing pictures, give him/her the blessing of many books with large pictures and limited text. We do not want the page to be too crowded with information because it can distract the child.
2. Home-made cards: At home I tried creating flashcards by printing images on thick paper. This involved searching images and printing/ pasting them on a thick white sheet. However, to me it seemed like the process would get prolonged because I would lag in putting it all together — getting the right picture, aligning and printing on thick enough paper. So I decided to look out for what was readily available online. You can choose whatever fits your situation — making at home or purchasing. Just that the size of the flashcards should be large enough with white background and no clutter on the card, so that it engages your little one.
3. Flashcard setup basics:
a) Try to avoid any kind of clutter or distractions (music in the background/ favorite toy etc.) in your surroundings when you do a session with your child.
b) While displaying flashcards be mindful to not cover the image/ text with your fingers.
c) Flashcards are displayed by placing the last card in front and the moment the card drops in front, in your hand holding all cards, you say the word.
d) If you are using home-made cards you can write what the card displays at the back of the card so all you need to do is read and flash the card saying its name.
e) Keep flashcards at eye level of the child for him/her to see it clearly and focus only on the cards.
4. Start slow : As little as 3–5 cards per session is fine. Each session can be of 1 category of flashcards. For example 5 flashcards of Fruits is one session of one category (Fruits).
With Reansh he would keep asking for more, so we did about 10 cards at a stretch, repeating them thrice and then stopped. It is important to stop and you will soon know why.
5. Frequency : Based on methods available for flashcards, it is suggested to flash the same set of cards of one category, 3 times per day, consistently for a few days (about 5 days on an average). These many repetitions are usually enough for a child to register and sometimes the child just gets bored of the cards if done more.
For instance it can be 3 categories — fruits, transport and nature. 5 cards of each category, flashed 3 times a day at different times per category (or at the same time all categories — this would completely depend on the interest of your child). And these same cards have to be repeated in similar fashion for 5 days. On day 6 introduce a new category or different cards of same category.
With Reansh and his love for flashcards, we would try to do them in 3 sessions a day. Some days it would just be 1 or 2 sessions, but most of the time I would flash the same cards thrice within a session as he has always been very interested in them and it does not impact the excitement for the next flashcards session. This worked for us so we were okay with it however you will need to evaluate this for your child and can flash them just once and then repeat it 3 times a day for each category. Also, after the session, we would dance a little to celebrate completion or just have lots of hugs and kisses; it helped break the monotony and I received the world’s best hugs!!
6. Flashcards literally need to be “flashed” only. You cannot keep a card in front of your infant/toddler and wait for 5 seconds pointing to it and repeating the word 10 times. BIG NO! Just flash them; not more than 1 second per card.
With Reansh I noticed, the faster I flashed them, the more interested he was and quicker he grasped.
7. Do Not Test : How would you like if it you started learning a new language and on day 1 your instructor gave you a test?! Like really!! You just want your child to absorb and learn…not give an examination. Try to keep the teacher in you far away from this one-on-one time you have with your infant/toddler. Slowly when you introduce a small check, you will know if your child enjoys being asked.
Reansh enjoyed the excitement on getting the answers right, so we did it like a routine part of flashcards. However, even if he got any incorrect, it wouldn’t be a big deal. We would simply go back to it again during the session and he would know it correctly.
8. Stop and take a break! We may sometimes want to keep flashing them repeatedly or sometimes the child may want to continuously be stimulated with flashcards. However it is important to take a break. This is done not only to avoid boredom or overdose of flashcards but also to keep the excitement the next time you say “Flashcards time!” You need to give a little and let the enthusiasm build for the next session. Something like how in our childhood our parents would take us to eat an ice-cream only on weekends…we used to look forward to it with such enthusiasm right? Similarly, have only a short fun session so that the next session, your child is excited/interested and so are you.
9. It should be a fun session and not “study hour”. Use your voice modulation well and bring out the child in you to make it exciting and entertaining for your little one. Learning can be really be fun, just try it!
The good part is it doesn’t take much time!
The pediatrician made it sound very simple to us while talking about Reansh’s diagnosis of Down syndrome. She said “he will learn everything..maybe not directly as A B C but you may have to use other methods to teach”. I remember smiling at that moment thinking that sounds simple! But for a brain that was taught A B C the usual bookish way, the creative bent of mind was rusty…very very rusty.
God bless the fellow-parents I had connected with, who spoke to me about Flashcards!
Go ahead and try it for yourself. It is a quick learning method. Be amazed and secretly you would wish you had the visual ability of a child :)