New Moms, Babies Don't Need Educational Apps, Workbooks, Or Flashcards

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
1 year old boy looking a digital tablet in the dark
Scary Mommy and Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty

My newsfeed is flooded with newer moms asking their burning questions in social media groups. I love the interactions between experienced moms and novice moms, but there’s a topic that’s getting out of control. The trending primary inquiry right now, besides the pandemic of course, is about their child’s education. They aren’t asking about a middle or high schooler or even a kindergartner. Instead, they are imploring fellow moms to offer tips on the best educational activities for babies. Yes, babies, as in infants and toddlers.

Apparently, it’s imperative that their eleven-month-olds know how to count to ten. How can they make their two-year-old color inside the lines versus scribble-scrabble all over their Daniel Tiger coloring sheet? Does anyone know what the best apps are to teach a child Spanish, Mandarin, and French? Oh, and while we’re at it, is COVID ruining the tots’ socialization potential? I have some experienced mom advice for educational-frantic new moms, and I mean it nicely. Please take one giant leap back before you train your baby to hate learning.

Before I continue, I want to express my empathy for new moms. We all have to start somewhere. We are absolutely bombarded with messages that we must make our babies smart by using all sorts of tools and activities. The push is to create a Pinterest-worthy playroom full of the most eco-friendly, educational toys possible. But don’t stop at the toys. Purchase workbooks, flash cards, and, of course, apps. Next step? Start grilling your baby.

We all want what’s best for our kids. I’m one of those cheesy women who believes that one of my sole life purposes is to raise my four children to become respected, kind, inclusive, and yes, educated, adults. However, time and experience has taught me (pun intended), that we need to let our kids be kids. This includes our toddlers and infants.

A child who is in size 2T clothing and wears diapers doesn’t need to start memorizing sight words. They’re trying to perfect the fine art of tantruming. One-year-old goals include throwing food from their highchair, dumping out all the contents in the kitchen cabinets, and trying to run away from their parents. Older infants are toddling, drooling, and cuddling. They don’t need to know how to properly hold a pair of child-safe scissors.

Moms, your child’s job is to play, no perform. I see you posting their videos on social media. You know the ones where you demand they name the color on the flashcard you hold up or perform the sign for “milk.” Is it just me, or is there a serious ew-factor in forcing your kid to take time out of the busy baby schedule to put on a show for adults? Please tell me you don’t think your child will fair better in life if they can hold the crayon the “correct” way by the time you’re celebrating their thirty-six month birthday. (Yes, I’ve actually seen parties for weird birthday dates.)

Moms, your kiddos don’t need to watch shows that fall into the “educational” category so you can get out a few emails and load the dishwasher. Must every single thing tots experience be drenched in academia? Let me answer that for you. It is perfectly fine that your toddler watches a pointless episode, play with a water bottle, or scribble on a sheet of paper.

Carlo A/Getty

Babies don’t need to excel. They need to be free to play, discover, and learn by these experiences. Every single toy, app, show, book, and activity doesn’t need to be “educational” or encourage “socialization.” If the child is developmentally on target and not showing signs of undiagnosed special needs, stop trying to tick their accomplishments off on some sort of mommy-pride chart. Let me tell you, we are all good moms already.

Your child’s job isn’t to impress anyone, including you. Of course, you think your baby is the most brilliant in all the world. That’s totally cool. No doubt that I think my kids are the absolute best. But their value and my love for them has absolutely nothing to do with how early they learned the difference between blue and purple. My kids are amazing because they are mine. I will cheer them on like nobody’s business.

Don’t be that parent, the one who pushes your kid to the brink of a breakdown from the time they’re infants all the way to adulthood. Of course, we should encourage our kids, support them, and help them explore their interests. We are also their first teachers, and it can absolutely be fun to teach them some of the preschool basics. But it’s not cute to prod our children into performative faux-genius for the sake of our own pride, competing with other parents, or trying to impress anyone.

Please, let them be little. Kids have plenty of time to learn to prepare for their adulthood, including a career. Don’t train them to hate learning.

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