Childhood Matters: Earlier is NOT Better

I see you, mama.  

You, who worries because your toddler could care less about colors, shapes, or counting. All while your neighbor’s tot rattles them off like the daily special.  

You, whose two-year-old still rarely says a word. You’ve seen kids younger than him reciting nursery rhymes, complete with actions.

You, who receives comments like, “That’s so cute she can count to ten! I have to tell my child to stop counting because numbers go on for infinity!”  Cue annoying show-off mom laughter.  

Repeat after me:  Earlier is not better. Earlier is not better.

It’s just earlier.

Childhood Matters Earlier is Not Better

When your child is older:

Will it matter if they spoke in full sentences at 18 months or at 3 years?

Will it matter if they learned to count to 100 at age three or at age six?

Will it matter if they learned to read at age four or age seven?


In fact, there is no one right age for learning to read. Too many parents underestimate the importance of teaching your child the LOVE of reading. The love of reading comes from simple things like snuggling during reading aloud. Exploring and giggling as you look at pictures, listening to CD books, taking trips to the library, and having favorite books read over and over again. Teach your child to love reading and you’ll have a child who is excited to learn to read when the time is right for them.

If you spend a great deal of time teaching a child things they are not ready for (or interested) in doing, what kind of learning are they missing out on?

Let me tell you, mama.

When you are drilling your 18-month-old on shapes and colors, they are not experimenting with gravity and balance while they stack blocks. They are not researching light and its properties as they play with their shadow on the wall.

When you are trying to get your two-year-old to focus on numbers or counting, they are not developing fine motor muscles in their hands as they squish play-doh. They are not exploring their senses or the endless possibilities of their imagination as they make different structures from that play-doh. 

When you are trying to teach your three or four-year-old blending sounds to read words, they are not feeding and caring for a stuffed animal, exercising their compassion and empathy. They are not developing social skills or problem-solving skills through imaginary play with other children.

Imaginary play is a big one. It’s absolutely critical for developing self-regulation and maximum brain development. In addition, an important benefit of early pretend play may be its enhancement of the child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and, ultimately, creativity.

Childhood Matters: Earlier is Not Better

Did you catch that? 

You are building your child’s brain when you support and respect their need for play. Through play, children learn how to learn. Creativity is developed and enhanced. In the ever-changing world we live in, our children’s generation will face so much. Not only the problems our generation has created but problems we can’t even foresee. Creativity and flexibility in thinking will play a key role in solving those problems.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, you should talk about letters and sounds with your child. Of course, it’s wonderful to engage your child in a conversation about colors, shapes, numbers, and other academic skills. Remember to keep it at that; just a conversation. Not a drill. Not a quiz. No one wants to be constantly tested or put on the spot. This post has great tips for teaching your toddler through normal, everyday interactions. It’s even suggested that delaying school to allow for more free play offers crucial benefits to children.

Childhood Matters: Earlier is Not Better

I know, mama. You see other kids who seem like they are “ahead” of your child. Maybe it’s the fact that your little one is not doing things as early as your older child did. I’ve been there, too.

It’s ok.

You’ll still be tempted to think that earlier is better. It’s the world we live in, but it doesn’t have to be the world your child lives in. Just ask yourself:

Will it matter if my child sees learning as exhausting instead of exciting?

Will it matter if my child can read, but hates it? 

Will it matter if my child sees themselves as “dumb” or “always behind” because they were in an academic setting when they should have had more time to play?

Will it matter?

I hope it matters to you now, mama.

Childhood matters. Why rush it?

“Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.”

Magda Gerber

Please Note:  If there’s ONE thing that researchers agree on, it’s that earlier IS better when it comes to early intervention. While many children will catch up on their own, some won’t. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know which is which until the window for “early intervention” is almost closed.

If you are at all concerned with your child not meeting milestones, please speak with your child’s pediatrician and call Grant Wood AEA at 319-399-6700 or 1-800-332-8488. An AEA representative will come to your home and do a free evaluation that covers many different areas of child development. They will be able to determine if your child would benefit from services and guide you on the next steps for your child.

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