Once you’ve had your baby and you’ve conquered the basic needs level on the baby Maslow hierarchy (there is no such thing, but my MBA in HR keeps showing up at times) your over-anxious mind asks “what next? What more can I do to make my life a little more complicated but a little more fun and stimulating for baby?” That’s when I discovered that babies love looking at bright, colourful images… and a random browse on Amazon brought me to the section for flash-cards. I remember having read on some discussion threads in the mommy groups I am part of, that flash-cards were effective to teach kids about all sorts of “stuff.” However, the rigour of it and the need to “teach” had driven me off… but still the products I saw tempted me to hit Add to Cart.
So around when babyT was 6+ months old, and we had started solid foods, I decided it would be a good idea to start telling him the name of the vegetable or fruit he was biting into, basically give things a name. And so arrived our first set of flash cards. I started off with showing him the flash cards at mealtimes – so initially we did images like carrot, beans, banana, mango (he started solids in the month of the Alphonso mango, yayy!); and I spoke the word out aloud a couple of times. I did not always use the word as was written on the card. I used the word that we normally use around the house – so some words were in English, some in Marathi (daddy tongue) and some in konkani (mommy tongue). I’ll come to this shortly – multi-lingual homes.
After showing him selective cards I soon graduated to doing the entire set of cards once a day and we did this almost daily. I soon found that babyT was trying to say sounds like carrot (kaat) and Kellein (keyy for banana). I also referred to this set of cards as the ‘bhaji (vegetables) cards’ and we were so surprised when once we were waiting our turn outside a restaurant in South Bombay (always South Bombay, never South Mumbai, or whatever would happen to SoBo.) babyT squealed and shouted at the top of his baby voice – “Bhajiii” We were stunned, it took us a few seconds to decipher what he just said in babytalk, but we looked around and saw that he was looking at a vegetable vendor selling his wares near the restaurant. So all those days and weeks of flash carding were actually helping in some way. We were quick to add other sets of flash cards to our collection – animals, birds (we have now lost this set somewhere between our mess and the ones we make at grandparents houses), things in my home, body parts etc. I don’t want to sound like a over-excited new mom who thinks the sun, moon and stars revolve around her baby, but babyT had a fairly wide vocabulary around the time he was 10 months. I don’t know if this will translate into him speaking early or having an ability to speak 3 distinct languages that we do speak at home, but even our paed did admit that his vocabularly was definitely above average for his age. 🙂 And I do believe flash carding helped.
How I used Flash cards:(Note – this may not be the way flash cards are meant to be used as per the instructions on the box. But I did not want to “teach” anything to a baby that small. Our objective was to find something engaging and enriching.)
- Show the image to babyT and say out the name clearly once or twice. Do this one-by-one for all the cards. Then show the entire set of cards in a flash – while saying out the name just once. Experts say this should be repeated a few times in a day and then everyday. However I did not follow this. I used them whenever we had some time to spare from our other activities or when babyT himself dragged out the cards and brought them to me to read to him.
- You can say the name of the object in any language you wish. Ideally use the same word for it that you use at home. For example, in our multi-lingual home we use words which are Marathi, Konkani and English. But we usually stick to only one word per object. Crows are Kailloh (Konkani), Apple is in English and Brinjals are vaangi (Marathi)
- Wherever possible add the actual object along with the card – especially in cases of fruits and vegetables, parts of body.
- As the child grows do try and add some descriptions to go with the images – we started to roar like tigers/ lions, say baa or moo for sheep and cows and blinked our eyes and twitched our noses doing body parts. Its quite cute really, every time babyT sees an image or video of a tiger he growls. 🙂
- We also talked of songs and stories where that object featured. Nani teri morni (a popular hindi song for babies which talks of peacocks) was referred to or a line sung from when we showed the birds flash cards. 🙂
- We made it a point to walk around the supermarket fruits and veggies section, pointing out all the familiar objects from our set of cards.
There are schools of thought which say very young babies shouldn’t be read to or shown flash cards to teach words or reading. However, books and reading have been the major source of comfort, fun and happiness with babyT. He loves books, he loves being read to and he loves receiving books more than toys. We also don’t follow the general guidelines on age wise books (obviously he isn’t reading nuclear physics yet) but we have been reading all sorts of books – touch and feel, hard bound, board books, paperbacks, soft books. Everything that we think we will enjoy and make some sense of. (Wherever we felt books are a little too advanced, we have stored them away for a future date.) So too with flash cards. They have worked really well for us and have benefited babyT immensely. I do hope you think of introducing them to your child. And if you haven’t already begun reading or books, its never too late to do so. 🙂 Happy reading! Happy flash carding!
We used flash cards from AppleTree available on Amazon.in