By M Cranford

To avoid disappointment, do not expect messages here about teaching your child academic subjects. As a parent and ex-primary school teacher I firmly believe that young children should not be taught formal academic subjects. There are much more important lessons to learn that will draw on all a parents resources.

The people who have the most fulfilling lives are those who have wide interests, have self-reliance, independence, confidence, curiosity and motivation. All these attributes can be acquired by young children from the experiences given to them by their parents and their wider family and friends.

The first key skills to acquire are those of language and communication, and these begun to be learned before birth. So you as a new parent have to learn to be unselfconscious about communicating to a small new person. Sing, dance and talk. Once your baby is born, talk to them from the earliest days. Tell them what you are doing, copy the sounds they make, tell them nursery rhymes and sing to them. Give them plenty of hugs and cuddles to reassure them and make them feel safe and confident.

Find out about modern stories for young children and start building up a little library for them. There are new classics on the scene since you were a child. Choose stories that you like too and that don't talk down to the child as the best stories stand read many, many times and should become old friends.

As your child becomes able to sit up and crawl, they can begin to play. Get down on the floor with them, and join in the play. Traditional toys are great - building bricks, shape sorting toys, anything that requires use of the hands and builds up dexterity. Have balls to roll and bounce, and different textures to stimulate the senses. They will love repetition, jokes and tickles. Think to their level and challenge yourself to find games and activities at your child's level.

Bath and bedtime are important. Early to bed so they get plenty of sleep, and a nice bath first with toys to pour and measure water, and things that float are great for their learning. Spend time with a bedtime story, sharing the words and pictures with your child. Please - no videos or television at bedtime. Reading and talking are much more calming, and then it’s time to sleep. As they get older, you can leave pause in a story to prompt them to suggest the words that fit - especially good when you are sharing a rhyming story, as this develops their sense of rhyme and sound and will make spelling easier when the time comes.

As your child gets a little older, they can learn and enjoy helping you with activities such as cooking - nice and safe please, so no knives or heat. But they can stir, mash and even break eggs. Expect mess and be attentive so you support them without taking over. Counting comes in here - how many eggs, how many spoons - real basic number work without any pressure.

They can help with tidying up, laying the table for meals, and even with shopping. Tell them what you are looking for, and ask them if they can see it.

If you have a garden or just a window box, plant some seeds, show them how to water and care for the plants, and watch what they grow into.

By now play should include activities such as painting, drawing and making things. Junk models are great, recycling your food cartons and such like. Use your imagination and resourcefulness to allow your child to develop theirs.

All this needs imagination, patience, love and a continuous intention to help your child learn through doing. It's not easy, and it can be draining, but your relationship with your child will be stronger in the future the more resourceful you are now.

Read my blog, which covers a range of my interests and thoughts, at see my art work at

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