Everything that our 15-month-old daughter sees that is round or nearly round she identifies as a ball.
So, in her world right now, apples, polka dots, another child’s head and the sun fall in the ‘ball’ category or the ‘bah’ classification, as she pronounces it.
While this may not be an exclusive group, she is just beginning to associate, putting names with shapes and shapes with colors or even taste, depending on her appetite or the other child’s willingness.
These early moments in a child’s development aren’t exactly rocket science, but they are the foundation for breakthroughs that come later. In some cases, much later. Still, a child in the womb being a captive audience, parents should engage their child early. The earlier, the more distance gained educationally.
From the time my wife was six months pregnant, we read at least one book to our daughter, Annie, every night before turning in. When we slept, we put classical music on the bedside CD player to stimulate her developing brain.
During the last few months of my wife’s pregnancy, I put my mouth against her stomach and talked plainly so the baby would recognize my voice. A father’s hope for his daughter especially for those fathers unfamiliar with having sisters or women in the house is that she will be a daddy’s girl from birth. So it was only appropriate that her first word was, ‘Momma.’
Somehow finding it in myself to forgive her, we sit in the rocking chair and read each night in the nursery. This is a pattern that we began when she was a few weeks old, before her eyes could follow the pages.
One night, she reached out and turned the page for me once I read the last sentence. The next day, we found her in her bedroom surrounded with books, holding them upright, turning the pages one at a time, from beginning to end.
By beginning early and through repetition, our daughter’s cognitive and language abilities are advanced beyond her age. An amazing accomplishment given her parents’ average intellect and ACT scores. Annie has already mastered the sounds that various animals make and grunting rhythmically to the alphabet song. Our hope is that one day, actual letters will follow.
Although the profundity in this experience is that these are not really our accomplishments, but hers.
Enjoy these lighthearted moments because they eventually give way to far sweeter rewards if there is anything sweeter or more intelligent than a child’s first mistakes.
Kevin Kuzma is a husband, father and freelance journalist. He and his wife Betsy have two children, Annie and Charlie, and reside in Kansas City, Mo.Tweet