3 Reasons to Ditch the Toddler Flash Cards

toddler
Image via Pexels

My daughter received several sets of toddler flash cards for her third birthday. Some were Dr. Seuss, some were simple with numbers and shapes, and some could be pieced together to form sight words. They were fun to look at for a minute or two, but she didn't show any interest in counting the objects to make a number or finding the match to make a word.

In fairness, the flash cards have seen a lot of use over the years. They've served as plane and train tickets, money, zoo maps, movie tickets, coupons, and approximately one bazillion other things. I find them all over the house, and six years later, they are constantly in use.

But we never did use them for their intended purpose.

It's easy to get caught up in the perceived need to drill kids with math facts and sight words. These cute and inviting flashcards promise to help your toddler learn to read and understand numbers. Why not get an early start to learning?

Drilling your toddlers with letters, sounds, numbers, and sight words might result in memorization of a few of those things, but it won't really give your kid a head start. Here's why:

baby in a hat
Image via Flickr/ Symic

Toddlers learn through play.

Young children learn through unstructured play. It really is that simple. They explore the world around them, they try on new roles, they make sense of objects, and they learn to solve problems. They also learn to communicate and to work through their emotions. It doesn't stop there. Play truly is the business of childhood. All you have to do is make it happen.

{ MORE: "Why?" How Your Little One's Curiosity Can Have a Big Impact }

Every minute spent memorizing flash cards is a minute away from the most beneficial learning environment for toddlers: a playful space.

toddler on phone
Image via Flickr/ mliu92

Complex language is more important than memorization.

While some toddlers are capable of memorizing words, knowing a bunch of words won't necessarily increase reading and language skills. Developing complex language skills, as children do through play and conversation (yes, even the single word responses you might get for a while), will help your child improve communication and set your child on a path to reading.

Flash cards promote memorization; practicing language and communication fosters early literacy.

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Image via Flickr/ ThomasLife

Reading together is fun.

Memorizing flash cards isn't much fun for little ones, but reading together is. Talk about the illustrations on the pages to help toddlers gain a deeper understanding of the text. This also helps them learn to identify feelings and understand cause and effect. Toddlers love to cuddle up with their caregivers (or older siblings) and read. They learn so much just from sitting in our laps and engaging in meaningful conversation about the scenery that surrounds them.

{ MORE: Music Matters in the Mind of a Child }

Nothing can replace time spent reading together. Take those precious moments with your toddler and use them to read, snuggle, connect, and be together. Reading skills will develop when your child is ready to read. For right now, let your child experience childhood without the added stress of trying to learn beyond his developmental level.

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3 Reasons to Ditch the Toddler Flash Cards

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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