I gih dah bah! (update about the baby’s “education”)
It’s been a while since I reported about Baby E., especially in any detail. So here’s maybe my first detailed report (he’s now 11 months) about what we’re doing with him and what’s going on with him. I guess the relevant topics are: apps; YBCR and associated flashcards; other screen-based reading programs; and books. But first, a report about his imitation and speaking!
E. started using “Mama” and “Papa” discriminately at about 6 months. E.g., I would be woken up by the baby patting my head and saying “Papa.” And when he gets very upset, he often screams “Mama!” and does not quiet down until Mama shows up. At about 7-8 months, he was saying “bway” all the time, which I thought was “boy” but which I now think was “play.” Then, beginning around two months ago (so, about 9 months), he started babbling a lot more. I use those nose strips that keep you from snoring; well, in the mornings, baby pulls them off (just like H. used to; he’s now five). I often said, after E. did this, “You got it!” So then he started saying what sounded like “gah” or “gah dit” (“got” or “got it”) himself, after he got it off. Also, when I was showing him cards and reading books, I noticed that his babble resembled the words after I said them. At one point, over a month ago, I showed him the card “book” and he pretty distinctly said “book.” Since then, he has repeated (in varying degrees of clarity) a few dozens of other words–usually just the first couple phonemes (like “rat” for “rattle”), but sometimes more. One that he has imitated quite a bit when we play with the ball is “ball.” Unlike H. as a baby, he very enthusiastically tries to imitate others. But he doesn’t offer too many words himself. In the last month or two his favorite out-of-the-blue word has been “go.” He’s been babbling and imitating words more than ever, the last few weeks. Recently, too, he has been saying words with more inflection and seeming to have babble conversations. Generally, if I think something he says sounds vaguely like something in English, I reply to him by modeling the English words.
So today, we had a sort of breakthrough. H. and I were playing ball with E., who was having great fun, and we noticed that he was saying (after getting the ball, rolled to him) things like “I gah!” and “I gah bah!” We repeated these back as “I got!” and “I got ball!” Then later “bah cah!” (or “ball got!” or “ball caught!”). Then, if you can believe it: “I gih dah bah!” (“I get the ball!”) I wouldn’t have trusted my memory if my wife didn’t happen to get a recording of it:
I couldn’t believe he apparently used “the” (well, “da”). But he was simply imitating us–and as I said, he’s a really enthusiastic imitator. He went on to “say” all sorts of other things when I was reading him a book; he was quite talkative. Also, we didn’t get it on recording, but there was a bright green, attractive recorder (the musical instrument) on the edge of a table. E. was cruising along and he reached up and got it, whereupon he triumphantly and clearly exclaimed, “I git it!” I was very struck by the fact that he separated “git” and “it.” It then occurred to me that this (or “I gih dah bah”) was likely his first sentence. I put the recorder back on the table and let him repeat the whole performance, which he did–just as clearly.
Whether he’ll continue to speak in sentences or today was a fluke (or, as seems unlikely to me, just us projecting English onto meaningless babble), we’ll find out soon enough, I guess. But how did he get to this point? First, he’s hearing language spoken reasonably well from waking until sleeping (and in two different languages). Unlike H., baby E. has a big brother who talks to him all the time, and E. adores H. I too am often describing our surroundings when I have him, and his Mama talks to him exclusively, and a lot, in her language.
The full explanation really requires that I describe some “educational” stuff we (mostly I) have been doing.
When we first wake up is the time that I show him apps (on the iPad). We have been looking at this Toddler Counting app 3-4 times per week–pretty much every morning that we start up the iPad (we read or look at flashcards, instead, about half of the time). As a result, he has had a lot of experience seeing 1-10 objects being counted. Strangely, he doesn’t seem to get tired of it–it’s endlessly fascinating. (There is also a Doman math dot program, which takes literally five seconds to run, and we do that maybe 3-4 times per week, although not according to instructions, which would be four times a day.) I suspect that this will help introduce the meanings of the words for the numbers, the numbers in order, and in general familiarize him with various concepts associated with counting. Pretty soon I’m going to start using the excellent KidCalc app and start counting by 2s, 3s, etc., forward and backward. I’ll do this while H. is about, because he still hasn’t learned all of that stuff. This is just patterns, and patterns can be learned at any age.
Why any attention to math? Well, I don’t expect him to be able to “subitize” quantities (i.e., recognize numbers of things accurately without counting, a la Glenn Doman), and I’m not going to spend much time teaching him that, for the simple reason that I don’t have good evidence that it is possible. I just think that familiarizing a baby (and toddler) with a wide variety of concepts, including math concepts, will make it a lot easier to use those concepts later on. (That’s our ongoing experience with H.) One thing that I learned from my reading (and from teaching H.) is that copious counting is one of the most important foundations of basic math, and the more facility you have with counting, the easier it is to start doing math down the road.
Some Doman devotees flash addition and subtraction facts to babies. Maybe this has some good effect, I don’t know, but I don’t plan to do this myself. I am sure that it’s possible to teach little tots to memorize math facts, but I don’t think they understand them. There is an enormous difference between a two year old who can count to 20 and who can answer 2+2, and a 4-6 year old who can understand and do addition and subtraction problems without having memorized the answer. I have a general principle: I won’t teach my kids things that I think they aren’t capable of understanding. Maybe this principle is wrong–I know that one can later come to understand something that one had merely memorized earlier. But generally, I’m a very rational sort, and not very poetic, and I want to give my boys this approach as well: whatever is worth studying, much less memorizing, is worth understanding. This is not just because understanding helps solidify memory, or because the purpose of study and memorization is to improve the understanding, it is also just a good habit to be in–trying to understand whatever one reads or otherwise studies. This is also why I explain every word that I think H. has not yet mastered. I’m already starting to do this with E. I believe I got this attitude myself from the philosopher G. E. Moore, who had a charming habit of trying very, very hard to understand things that other people think are obvious. Anyway, since I’ve had this approach, I think this is why H. is extremely articulate for his age, and is really excellent at explaining what he knows.
Anyway, there are also a number of “baby touch” apps which we also regularly do for fun, and because they no doubt teach some things. There’s this one (which is like an ebook for babies–wish there were more of these) and this one. In addition, we regularly (but in no way systematically) look at any of a dozen or more flashcard apps, on all sorts of different subjects, but especially animals. See this blog post for more.
I sometimes think that I should sit down and plan out a plan of systematic study for E., but I never do. Don’t know why. Maybe I should; perhaps he’d learn some concepts better if we studied them more systematically. But, well, I find myself doubting this. He’s getting exposed to a wide variety of concepts daily, and we naturally come back to them over and over again. I think that trying to expose him to them more systematically would be more likely to bore him. Instead, I pick whatever topic it seems we have not covered recently very much. There’s another reason too, I guess, that we don’t do flashcards topics (except for Little Reader; see below) systematically at this point. It’s that I want him to be really excited about them, and he isn’t that excited about them. They hold his interest, but he’s not gaga over them. So ultimately I suspect he’s not quite ready for them because he’s (again) not understanding the objects he’d be shown quite well enough. I do think he will be more ready soon, and who knows–maybe then we’ll try something more systematic.
Next, just a bit about Your Baby Can Read. Until a month ago, or so, we watched these once or twice a week. We started around 3-4 months. We have seen each of the first three discs at least a dozen times each. If we weren’t doing other similar things, I might want to watch more. He’s pretty interested, but he was considerably more so until about a month ago. At one point he totally freaked out over the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Crying hysterically. So we turned off the video. Mama insisted that he was afraid of the song, but I couldn’t believe it. (She says he finds the guy in the dog suit scary.) So I simply sang the song for him myself, unaccompanied, and he started crying again. Mama reprimanded me. Several weeks later, I figured he’d be over it, so I started singing the song, and out came the lower lip and he just about started crying, so I instantly stopped and comforted him. Go figure. Mama again reprimanded me for experimenting on my baby.
In addition, we’ve been doing the YBCR word-only flash cards–which I never thought would be so interesting to baby–about 3-5 times a week, first thing in the morning, usually 30 words or so. For a while, it was almost every day. So he’s very familiar with those words, which I act out, try to explain, whatever. I don’t know why he likes looking at just the words, and having me sound them out and “explain” them as well as I can, but he does. He’s familiar with what most if not all of the words “mean” from the YBCR videos and other sources, so there’s that. He likes these very simple cards more than any other educational tool we have, except maybe the iPad.
We also sometimes do the YBCR slide-the-picture-out cards. Haven’t yet done my Fleschcards. I don’t expect we’ll have to, because Reading Bear is going to cover the same material, only better.
We’re also doing the BrillKids Little Reader program, going through the built-in “curriculum,” about 4-5 times per week, sometimes twice a day, although not so much recently–we should get back into it. We’re on Day 31 lessons (total available: 130 days), but we’ve been using it for at least a couple of months. We enjoy this. I guess we’d do it more if E. were paying attention more consistently. E. is quite different from H.–H. would sit still for almost anything I’d show him, for as long as I’d show it to him. E. (as a baby) is a little more picky and quite a bit more interactive. (H. later became extremely picky himself.) Anyway, we appreciate the word and picture flash, and the main part of the program, which involves showing words combined with pictures and videos, are some of the best presentations of its type on the market.
Along the same lines, 2-5 times a week, I show him part of a Reading Bear presentation (see the demo here–not released, not to be reviewed yet). These have been keeping his attention very well, but only for about five minutes. After that, he starts turning away and so I let him go to his Mama. He appreciates the new ones, too. He doesn’t have as much appreciation for the first first one (“Short A”) because we’ve seen it so much. (Interestingly, H. is usually on hand and often wants to finish watching the presentation with me, even though the stuff is old hat. He loves them.)
As I said above, E. seems to repeat what I read quite frequently now. At least, I hear interjections that repeat the first 1-3 phonemes of the word I’m reading, like “ball,” “baby,” “book”–he seems to be good with the Bs–also “hi” and others. I have even caught him saying words a few times before I read them. He did this once or twice with “book” and once with “hi.” But, unlike some babies, he doesn’t act out the words too much. He will, sometimes, if we model the action first. With prompting, he’ll point and wave.
Finally, books. I’m a bit disappointed that he isn’t as much into books as H. was. He’ll usually sit still for a couple of baby board books, but not much more than that. He’s much more of a get-up-and-go kind of guy than H. was. (His favorite thing these days is to grab on, very firmly, to my pointer fingers, one in each hand, and then go walking all around the house. If I take the fingers away prematurely, or even pick him up, he gets very upset. He’s not quite walking but he’s crawling and cruising well, and has stood on his own for a couple seconds.) Anyway, we read books on all the topics you’ll find represented in baby book sections: ABCs, numbers, colors, animals, general vocabulary/concepts, etc. He has even less patience for stories, even the simplest stories. I don’t blame him, I don’t think H. started liking stories much until he was past 12 months of age. Anyway, I still do read to E. almost every day, and sometimes twice a day. Occasionally we can get in longer reading sessions, and lately he’s had more patience.
One trick, which I highly recommend, is this. I put my finger in baby’s hand and then pointed at pictures or words and said the corresponding words out loud. Then I let baby control my finger, and he enthusiastically points at particular things. Today we were looking at the most basic I Spy book on the market, and a few times he was able to make my finger point to the object to hunt for. Call it the poor man’s “Leapfrog Tag.”
About the author
I call myself an "Internet Knowledge Organizer." I started Wikipedia.org, Citizendium.org, and WatchKnowLearn.org, and ReadingBear.org. I write about education and the Internet from a broadly philosophical point of view.