These may both have a pur­pose but I think many mod­ern par­ents are los­ing sight of their pur­pose when rais­ing their children.

I under­stand that par­ents get frus­trat­ed when their chil­dren can’t talk and com­mu­ni­cate. If they teach sign lan­guage the child can sign to them when she’s hun­gry, thirsty etc.

I recent­ly found my notes when I was car­ing for a 10 month old. We were read­ing a book sit­ting on the floor. I enclosed her between me and the book so she had warmth and could eas­i­ly see the pic­tures on each page. When I asked her if she want­ed me to read it again (it was her favourite) she used the same grunt each time and she didn’t squirm so I knew she meant ‘yes’.

I was elic­it­ing a ver­bal response and she respond­ed with a sound. Only by being around the child and repeat­ing sim­i­lar ques­tions could I know that her grunt meant ‘yes’. Her body lan­guage also helped me because she was calm and con­tent­ed so in all like­li­hood she would like me to read the book again – famil­iar­i­ty and rep­e­ti­tion brought about a ver­bal response.

How easy it would have been for a par­ent and child to use a sign for ‘yes’. But spo­ken lan­guage (when it becomes more than just sounds) is what sep­a­rates us from ani­mals. Bar­ring a phys­i­cal defect we can all speak. How­ev­er, infants need to be spo­ken to in a way that elic­its sound, it is crit­i­cal to build on those words and sounds and to ensure that it hap­pens day after day.

Which brings me to flash cards. One of those old fash­ioned and yet cur­rent­ly very pop­u­lar tools of ear­ly child­hood edu­ca­tion used by today’s intense parents.

If flash cards are used thus: “Where’s the square, Mary?” and Mary points accu­rate­ly to the square on the card then par­ents are thrilled. “Mary knows all her shapes” they proud­ly tell the grandparents.

But in fact this exchange has a miss­ing piece – the child didn’t have to respond with a sound. She only had to point to get it right and make her par­ents happy.

Flash cards should be done away with unless they elic­it sounds and words from infants and toddlers.

We are los­ing sight of the need to work at mak­ing our chil­dren flu­ent in their lan­guage and for that rea­son far too many chil­dren who are over one year of age are fail­ing to com­mu­ni­cate ver­bal­ly with their par­ents and caregivers.

The use of flash cards and sign lan­guage are con­tribut­ing to ‘late talking’. 

Mark my words.