Why I do not care about teaching my toddler about letters, shapes and colours

Published: September 8, 2013

How many adults do you know that can’t read, can’t draw a circle or can’t identify colours? Honestly, you may be able to think of one or two in your life.

Statistically, one in seven adults has issues with reading and writing. So this is not an issue to completely forget about, but if you are reading this blog, chances are your child will not be one of these children. This statistic mainly comes from very impoverished and neglected children and these adults will need far more than basic grammar skills to function in life.

So what’s your rush to get your toddler to point to colours and sing the ABC’s?

If you read with them and use descriptive language during the day, they are getting all of the academics they need for this age. There is much teaching to be done though – a subject much more challenging than letters and shapes. In the first seven years, I believe that there is a different kind of education our children need.

How many adults do you know that struggle with relationships, or with being open with their emotions, or even just struggle to be happy with their daily life? Here’s a place that I bet you can think of plenty!

The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%

The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%

The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

1 in 10 people in America are on anti-depressants

Twenty-three million Americans age 12 and older suffer from alcohol or drug addiction.

Every 32 seconds, a suicide attempt is made.

Every 13 minutes, someone has successfully killed themselves.

So, by the time you are done reading this basically…

That is why I could care less about abstract lessons these days, there is real teaching to be done in the subject of being ‘human’. I am less concerned about raising a vessel that holds information and more concerned with raising a functioning human being. In the formative years, I believe that our main ‘curriculum’ is to help our children form basic social skills.

We help them navigate relationships. We show them how to tune into their personal needs and emotions. We teach them that they are one of many human beings on this planet that all have different needs and personalities. We interact with them from birth with respect and compassion. Above all, we give them an example of a good human being by always striving to be a loving and respectful person to all around us.

All of these lessons begin in childhood, at birth – possibly even in the womb. During these years they soak up everything and imitate every single little thing we do. They remember when we asked their permission before picking them up or wiping their nose. They remember how we say thank you to the cashier or offered help to someone in need. They also remember when we yell profanities in traffic or gossip about the people in our social circle. They see our kindness, generosity, love; our anger, selfishness and hatred. Every moment, good and bad, will become imprinted in who they become later in life.

This is why don’t care about numbers letters and shapes. I have a far, far bigger task at hand.

Our job during these first years of our children’s life is to take a good look at ourselves and ask if that is who we want our children to become. I’m obviously not perfect and always striving to be a more understanding wife and mother, a more selfless friend and community member and generally much more aware of my own emotions and boundaries. If I don’t actually achieve these things immediately (which I won’t), my son will see my striving and this is what he will take into his adulthood: the self-awareness and flexibility to work towards becoming a complete and functional human being.

What if you did focus on abstract information when your child was younger? That’s okay, it’s not too late!

This blog originally appeared here.


Sydney Steiner

Sydney Steiner

Waldorf teacher turned parent, Sydney blogs about motherhood here: sydneysteiner.com/ and you can follow her on Facebook here www.facebook.com/LearningMotherhood

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.