There are many products and toys available to parents and caregivers these days that are aimed to get babies and toddlers ready for school. They vary in cost, ease of use, and accessibility. Some parents and caregivers feel compelled, and are able, to buy “fancy” toys that light up and sing. Some purchase expensive learning devices or tablets on which a seemingly limitless supply of apps can be used. The learning curricula used in formal daycare or childcare centers are packaged learning kits and well-researched educational programs that are expensive, the cost of which is passed down to the parents in the cost of care for their children. Fancy toys, devices or expensive learning kits or programs can be considered unnecessary, since what babies and toddlers need to get ready for school by the age of 36 months does not involve expensive toys or learning kits. They need human faces, human touch, healthy relationships with providers and language. With the faces, bodies and words of parents and care providers in a safe, healthy setting, babies and toddlers will thrive and develop the skills needed for school readiness and success by the age of 36 months.
School readiness and success in the 21st century is not the same as it was in the 20th century. The expectations have changed; memorization and regurgitation of facts to pass tests and get good grades is no longer the primary focus. Performance is measured by competence and whether competence is progressing, halted or faltering. Children of the 21st century, rightfully so, are expected to demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit, to be flexible, to be engaged thinkers, to be ethical citizens, to be creative problem solvers, and so much more. They need to be able to collaborate with others with strong communication and social skills in all subject areas, including subject areas like math and writing, which are taught differently today than in the 20th century.
So what can we do as parents and caregivers of children under 3 to get them ready for the 21st century school experience? We can put down the toys that go beep when a button is pressed or the robotic doll that encourages bonding with a machine rather than people. We can box up bossy toys like the “Let’s Pretend Elmo” (currently on sale for $89.99 on Amazon) which directs babies and toddlers to play a certain way. We can shelve the ABC puzzles and the learning games/toys that teach letters, numbers, shapes and colors to children, especially those targeting children younger than 24 months, and spend our time engaging with babies and toddlers in ways that offer limitless discovery and learning of skills such as large motor coordination, object permanence, turn-taking and language development. We can cover up the screens of iPads/iPhones and a child’s “dream scene” (such as the Vtech Musical Dreams Light Projector, on sale on Amazon for $45) and, instead, let babies and toddlers spend time gazing into our eyes, watching our every move, and hearing our every word while we observe their development and react to their coos, burps, and babbles.
To play a role in supporting parents and caregivers in using language- and relationship-based play and engagement with babies and toddlers for school readiness by 36 months of age, ORB3 is launching #Readyby3. Via social media, ORB3 will make available activity ideas and vital information regarding the following crucial school readiness skills that develop from 0-36 months: language understanding and use, speech/articulation, emotional understanding and use, social understanding and ability, and sensory processing. ORB3 will provide opportunities for parent/caregiver coaching as well as a platform for parents, caregivers and anyone else who cares about babies and toddlers to ask questions, give feedback, and share ideas. More than anything, #Readyby3 is a movement to inspire, empower and encourage parents and caregivers to support the development of babies and toddlers and to get them ready for school by the time they blow out 3 candles on their birthday cakes.