Flashcards for toddlers – yay or nay?

Prior to having Happy Eco Toddler, I read a ton of parenting books, websites, etc. Naturally, there was a lot of contradictory information out there, but one thing I saw time and time again was that you shouldn’t use flashcards with toddlers. People compare it to educational drills, and say that it will bore the child, sap their love of learning, that it’s no substitute for playing in the sandpit, blah blah blah.

Tasha first started speaking just after her first birthday, and my mum brought home some colourful, cute flashcards and started reading them to her.


I’d been reading baby books to Tasha since the day she was born, and she’s a big reader now. But I’d followed what I read about flashcards up till that point. But since her introduction to flashcards, she’s been a total flashcard aficionado – she’s memorized what all the flashcards we own are, she knows all her capital letters now, she recognizes the animals and so on when she sees them in other contexts, and most importantly: she really delights in them. Next to reading (and okay, watching My Little Pony), flashcards are probably her favourite thing to do with mummy.

Of course, every baby/todder is different. Some might have absolutely no interest in flashcards. There’s no point pushing kids with something they’re not interested in. For example, Tasha can count to 30, but when actually counting things, we end at 3 – I’ve tried to use an abacus and a few printables to get her interested, but no deal. And that’s fine; we’ll come back to math when she’s ready.

Whereas, your toddler might already be hooked on the abacus, but not be into flashcards. But if you haven’t tried either, and you’ve just got them playing in the sandpit, then I think can be limiting too: life is a series of experiences through learning, and giving them guided opportunities to learn during these most important early years of development is doing them a favour.

So, find the things that your child loves to learn from, and do them together; don’t cross things off your list because “experts” generically tell you how to play with your child. They’ve never met your child. Every child is a different little human being.

Flashcards get a bad rap, and in our home, it’s an undeserved one. They’ve encouraged my daughter’s love of learning and curiousity about the world. So try them at home, and see if your toddler enjoys them too!

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