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Educating a three year old- am I being ridiculous?

(43 Posts)
Limpetsmum Sun 08-Feb-15 00:39:40

This may well sound ridiculous, but how much time do you spend teaching a three year old?
I've got a three year old boy who has a nanny look after him 4 days a week and he goes to nursery one day a week.
Whenever I meet up with friends, I always feel I have the least bright child!
I wonder whether I'm doing him an injustice by having a nanny rather than sending him to nursery. My view was that while kids are little they want attention and love and academia will come later- from school age.
I read to him in the evenings and try to teach him the alphabet and writing - but he's just not that fussed (although does enjoy reading at bedtime).
He's not particularly gifted in anyway but he's a lovely boy.
Academia is important to us and both my husband and I have postgraduate degrees. We have good jobs and strong academic backgrounds. But I worry that I'm not spending enough time concentrating on my three year olds education and maybe concentrating on play too much.
Can anyone reassure me that what I'm doing is ok and he'll catch up and take interest in things in his own time? Or could you advise me on how I should boost his academic development.
He's not particularly behind in anyway (maybe speech ever so slightly). But when I'm chatting with my friends they always mention how their child can read words, or count to 50 or other things that parents boast about. I just sit there and think I've got a lovely happy boy and I hope he excels in life and hope I'm not holding him back.

piggychops Sun 08-Feb-15 00:49:57

The best thing you can teach him is to have an enquiring mind. At that age they want to explore things, so don't worry about the academic. Oh, and he's a boy so his way of learning is more likely to be kinaesthetic.

CultureSucksDownWords Sun 08-Feb-15 01:52:57

Don't worry. It's more important to develop much more fundamental skills at this age. Social skills, perseverance, patience, concentration etc rather than specific academic learning. Follow his interests and make whatever you do fun and engaging.

IKnewYou Sun 08-Feb-15 02:09:40

I have four DC who are all adults now. I always found it amazing how much they varied when they were 3. It didnt always reflect how 'clever' they would be when they were older.
One of my DCs was desperate to learn their letters and could read easy books before starting school while another was really reluctant. I know it a bit cliche but guess which one is the best at reading...
As long as there are no real issues and as long as your child is progressing I really wouldn't worry. There is plenty of time for schooling.

Medoc Sun 08-Feb-15 02:21:47

How well educated is the nanny? Are they eloquent, well read, enthusiastic about learning?
Children take their cues from the people around them.

Children learn through play though, you shouldn't cut down on it! We all learn things at different rates/paces.

StrangeGlue Sun 08-Feb-15 02:30:03

Op by the time they're 5 it will have all evened out. Don't get sucked into the competitive parenting. It sounds like what you're doing is perfect. He doesn't need to be taught and if he's not fussed for it now and you get into a battle he'll be already against it when he gets to school.

Keep playing and talking and loving him and he'll have the confidence to fly with the formal learning when he's ready.

Limpetsmum Sun 08-Feb-15 08:34:31

Thank you! Reassured!
Our nanny does teach him things as well but I've never made her do any formal teaching. She's English and enthusiastic and I think has a similar focus on play and bringing up a polite, well mannered boy.
We're paying a fortune in Childcare and often I watch kids who go to nursery and I feel they are more 'advanced' in many ways as they learn from the older ones.
I've always thought that it's the long term outlook I'm investing in and have tried not to get involved in this competitive parenting of when my child does x, y, z but hope that by the time their 18 they are well rounded, decent humans who have met their potential.
I just sometimes get concerned as they have pretty good academic genes (don't mean to sound arrogant!) but are yet to display this side of them and worry it's my parenting style that is holding them back.

TheWordFactory Sun 08-Feb-15 08:43:29

OP I had twins. Summer born (late august) and prem.

They went to school unable to read or write one word.

They are now, at 15, what you would call academic kids. DS won a scholarship to one of the most academic schools in the UK and Dd will join him there for sixth form having won a place.

At three I really concentrated on physical and verbal skills.

I constantly exposed them to new physical environments and ensured their lives were extremely language rich.

Academic skills I left until much later.

TheWordFactory Sun 08-Feb-15 08:46:29

I suppose I should say my DC did go to nursery three short days a week from two.

But nursery taught then no school skills. It was in the middle of the countryside with a duck pond and an orchard. They went with waterproofs and spent lots of time outdoors.

insancerre Sun 08-Feb-15 08:52:09

You don't need to educate 3 year olds
You just give them new and exciting experiences and they develop naturally
What you do need to teach them is a love of books, how to speak and listen, independence, curiosity, and a willingness to 'have a go ' and make mistakes as they work things out for themselves

JustRichmal Sun 08-Feb-15 08:56:28

I did teach dd, but I loved teaching and she loved learning. I took the view that education, particularly in their formative years, will make a difference. For me it was getting a balance of doing 5 minutes of teaching here and there through the day. I made it fun and did a lot of colouring or learning through games but did do some of the maths and English books aimed at pre-schoolers. Also, odd opportunities, like counting steps or adding one more to her Smarties.
I cannot go back and compare what she would have been like now if I had not have done this, but at 11 she is glad she learnt when she was younger.
Clearly all children do not catch up or all children would be at the same level. I don't think there is even evidence that they catch up to some pre set level for them with or without education. I am of the view that education does make a difference and increases their ability level.

titchy Sun 08-Feb-15 10:34:00

Of course they catch up - if they didn't then countries where kids start formal school at 7 (most of the west) wouldn't produce any doctors, engineers etc.

JustRichmal Sun 08-Feb-15 10:51:11

So only education after the age of 7 increases a child's eventual level of ability? Or is it even older than that? What if they were not to start education until 10, 12 or even 16? At what age could you start education and end up at the same level as if you'd started earlier?

Limpetsmum Sun 08-Feb-15 10:51:46

We do plenty of learning things through play - like counting steps, counting birds, money etc. and trying to do literacy as well like recognising letters on signs and car registration plates. Not so much writing practice but he does art and craft things.
Our kids don't watch TV either- we watch films as a family but I've never plonked them In front of the TV so I can do stuff or rest. I always get the kids helping me cook, laundry etc. I almost wonder my approach of no TV and giving them one on one care while little is not beneficial as kids learn from other kids and perhaps watching TV. (I should say, they do mix with other kids in toddler groups so they're not social outcasts).
So my question now is, how much time do parents spend sitting down and work through pre school books etc. ie more formal teaching rather than sporadic teaching as the world goes by.

CultureSucksDownWords Sun 08-Feb-15 11:04:23

They don't need TV. Think about all the people in the world who learnt perfectly well before TVs were widespread. It's only the last 2 or 3 generations (in the UK) that have this level of exposure to screens, and there is some evidence that it may well be a hindrance for young children rather than an aid.

"Learning" through play is ideal, don't try and force learning as the last thing you want to do is make learning a chore. Keep answering your child's questions, following their interests and exposing them to a wide range of experiences and you won't go far wrong.

00100001 Sun 08-Feb-15 11:10:37

None here, all four are doing well.

JustRichmal Sun 08-Feb-15 11:22:09

We used to do quite a bit, but I cannot remember how much. I did lots of games to teach maths or reading as well as books. Shops is a good one for adding and counting. For subtraction I would get a collection of something like Lego bricks, get dd to shut her eyes and then look and guess how many I had taken away. Just putting one or two counters on the floor and showing adding one or two more dd would see as a game. We also had a jigsaw where she joined on letter to spell what was in the picture. But she also quite liked the challenge of doing the pre-school books. I would also not dismiss TV, just be selective. There are some interesting programs for children on Cbeebees. We also, as a family, like science and history documentaries. As dd has got older she has got more into watching them. TBH learning and play had fluid boundaries.

happygardening Sun 08-Feb-15 12:02:05

My DS2 didn't go to nursery/school until yr 1, I was virtually a SAHM, I've also never owned a flash are or taught him the alphabet, but we talked all the time, he did lots of drawing and art stuff, we made up silly stories, played games, met lots of other children, he rode ponies, played on his bike, climbed endless trees, we went to loads of museums, to the theatre, I read endless stories some very complicated and we also listened to loads of audiobooks etc. When he started school in yr 1 he couldn't read, although he was showing an interest in reading, he was quickly identified as an exceptionally able child, in particular a very talented mathematician by the time he was half way through yr 1, he was virtually a "free reader" by the end of yr 1 and he's now currently in yr 12 at a super selective school his lack of formal education in his early years has never done home in harm in fact I would say the complete opposite.
Enjoy your DS have fun together the years fly by.

titchy Sun 08-Feb-15 12:07:13

What age can formal education be deferred to before it affects adult academic ability level? I'm not an academic so don't know of any research, but I'd guess that it's during adolescence. Adults can obviously continue to learn, but I think there's enough evidence, particularly around language learning, and learning new alphabets, that an adult learner would probably not become fluent, but a 14 year old learning say mandarin language and symbols could with enough learning become fluent.

I think what's more important than formal learning, at least in the primary age range, is encouraging inquisitiveness and a desire to want to know stuff, a non chaotic environment etc.

Learning to read at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 does not confer by itself any educational advantages.

Sootgremlin Sun 08-Feb-15 12:38:34

My 3 year old actively resists 'formal' attempts at learning, any whiff of you trying to get a 'correct' answer out of him he rejects, messes about, obviously began to start getting stressed about getting it so I just backed off.

We read lots, stories and factual books on things he shows an interest in, a lot above his age range, we look things up he wants to know and talk about it. I answer any questions he has as fully as I can and always make time to do so.

His verbal skills and comprehension of ideas are very good, hoping that is the foundation he needs for formal learning and will make it come more easily when he's ready.

We count apples in the supermarket, I've shown him how to sign his artwork with the first letter of his name, I point out letters to him for different things and read signs, and he now starts to ask what letter/sound a word starts with etc, so think they just get there in their own time. If you create the right environment then they will lead it.

I'm definitely concentrating a lot on his confidence, exposing him to new situations, encouraging any interests and an element of risk taking, both physically and with arts/crafts etc.

noramum Sun 08-Feb-15 13:37:03

Why do you want to teach a 3 year old formally? A 3 year old should play, get dirty in the mud outside and be active.

A lot of learning at this age is through play, nanny or nursery or childminder and parents do this. Play with letters in the bath - teaching the alphabet. Play games with a dice - learn about numbers. Play with arts and craft - fine motor skills he needs for learning to write. Reading books to him - making sure he loves books. Going into the park - teaching about nature, the weather. Planting flowers - teaching about cycle of life. There are lots of great pre-school games available to teach them without doing anything formal.

Unless you plan to send him to a hot house pre-prep a normal Reception class will start with the basic and if you teach your child to love to learn he will have the best start.

sunnydayinmay Sun 08-Feb-15 16:41:27

Mine went part time to nursery, but did no "formal" schooling until Reception. What we, and nursery, concentrated on was play (adult and child led), enjoying books and stories, playing board games and experimenting with everything.

I think an ability to concentrate is useful, but you don't have to he teaching letters or reading.

Neither of mine could read when they started school, but were happy to learn, and were free readers within a couple of years. I am certain its because they had good concentration spans - but these were developed from playing with lego or toy trains!

dietcokeisgreat Tue 10-Feb-15 21:28:21

Ds is 3.5. He is refusing to learn anything at the moment. Knows letters, numbers but just screams and runs off if we try to do any reading or writing activities. All his friends are diung these things. Trying not to worry as the advice i have had from nursery/ health visitor etc is that he will get here. My. Husband likes to mention scandinavians not starting school until 6/7 and getting better average results than the uk!

amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 10-Feb-15 21:31:56

Worry not. My son could not read when he went to school at nearly five. Never sat still long enough..

Within one term he was one of the best readers in the class. We read to him loads at home which he loved but at 3 was not interested in reading himself.

Pippidoeswhatshewants Tue 10-Feb-15 21:38:47

As long as you spend quality time with your child, go outside, talk and read to him and maybe do the odd colour and counting game you're fine.
There is absolutely no reason why a 3 year old should learn reading or formal maths!

My dcs went into reception totally oblivious, and they are doing fine now, ds got into a selective grammar and dd is on her way there. Don't get sucked into competitive parenting or have fun pretending your children do extra Mandarin!

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