Colors, Numbers, and Letters, Oh My!

June 24, 2023

If I had a nickel for every time a parent said this to me...

"My child is so smart, we work on colors and shapes everyday and they can even point to some numbers and alphabet letters, I don't understand why they're not talking yet."

First of all, I have to get this out of the way: talking is not related to intelligence! If your child isn't talking yet, it has nothing to do with how smart they are. Phew! Ok, back to academic concepts...

Pretty much every popular toy company or app wants you to believe that your baby or young toddler needs to know colors, shapes, numbers, and letters. Parents are often made to feel that knowledge of these concepts equals intelligence, but truthfully all it equals is memorization skills. In reality, you don't need to make academic concepts a priority when your child is learning to talk and I'll tell you why:

It's more important to put your time and energy into teaching FUNCTIONAL words. Functional words are USEFUL and PRACTICAL for your child because they help them get their wants and needs met.

Of course it's okay to talk about academic concepts--you can and should use these words as you would naturally--they just should not be the *focus* for a child who is not yet using a variety of nouns (people, places, things like mama, bath, ball), verbs (action words like eat, go, night night), adjectives (description words like big, hot, wet), and location words (like on/off, in/out).

Key takeaway

❌ Avoid:

Putting a lot of time and effort into teaching academic concepts

✅ Instead:

Put that energy toward teaching functional words that your child can actually use

For example, when pointing to a blue toy car, focus on the word "car" and not "blue".

So when do children start understanding and using academic concepts?

1-2 years:

  • Begin to sort objects by shape and color
  • Understand "another"

2-3 years:

  • Can distinguish between "one" and "many"
  • Understands number concepts "one" and "two"
  • Begins to use adjectives (descriptive words) like color and size
  • Can name common colors (like those in a crayon box)
  • Recite numbers 1-10 and understand the concept of counting (will start counting groups of things)

3-4 years:

  • Begin to pay attention to specific print, like the first letter in their name
  • Understand that print carries a message
  • Identify some letters and may be able to make some letter/sound matches (this is typically taught in Kindergarten)

4-5 years:

  • Count to at least 20
  • Recognize shapes in the real word
  • Knows many letter names and may be able to make some letter/sound matches (this is typically taught in Kindergarten)

Hope that was helpful :) If you're ready to help your baby or toddler talk, I can teach you how! Join me in my course,  Raising Little Talkers and learn everything you need to know to get your child talking.



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