Maya Frost with one of her favorite Lucky Baby students.
Now that I’ve had a couple of what I affectionately refer to as “batches” of babies completing my Lucky Baby series, I’m learning a ton about babies, learning and people in general. As I mentioned in a previous post, I already recognized the “sweet spot” between six and nine months of age. Here are seven realizations from the past month:
1) Most people are terrified of groups of babies. Oh, sure, plenty of adults are more than happy to be handed a single baby for a few minutes, hoping the baby won’t cry during the gootchy gootchy goos. But take even an experienced parent or caregiver and offer them a chance to sit in a room full of a half dozen infants, and most will quickly come up with an urgent reason to get the heck out of there. Most are happy to hover by the doorway and admire the cuteness, but suddenly remember a pressing engagement once invited inside. Time after time, I’ve seen relatively baby-seasoned people blanch at the very notion of being surrounded by babies and few would take my place willingly, even for a moment. This bodes well for me in terms of job security.
2) The infants cry far less in my classes than the one-year-olds do. Both have their mothers present, so that isn’t the issue. It’s more the fact that babies simply sit and listen (intently) while the ones tend to be climbing around and/or getting frustrated about something they want to do but can’t. Most mothers are convinced that a Lucky Baby class will be full of screaming babies—theirs among them—and are very surprised at how calm everyone is. Other than the first class of each session in which there is usually one very freaked-out baby who has never encountered a foreigner and/or a group of other babies, I have never had any babies cry during class.
3) There appears to be a significant difference between the babies that have been through the series and those that haven’t. This has come as a big surprise to my staff and me. We expected the infants to be more familiar with me, more comfortable hearing only English, and used to sitting in a group with other babies, but compared to the babies and toddlers I teach who have not been through the series, the Lucky Baby crowd has a markedly increased attention span, better eye contact, and an overall level of contentedness that far exceeds the others. Now, I don’t have a way to measure this—it’s anecdotal at this point and an admittedly small sample size (20 or so)—but even adults who have never met any of the babies before would be able to pick the Lucky Little Ones who have been through the series and those who haven’t. Since they’re not talking yet, there is no tangible language difference, but the difference in attention is dramatic. Since several studies confirm that bilingual children have a greater ability to pay attention despite distractions than their monolingual peers, I wonder if it’s possible that this difference can show up even at this very early age among children exposed to a second language.
4) Parents can mess up even one year olds. I feel like a bit of a baby snob for saying this, but it’s so much easier to work with the infants than the toddlers because many of those between one and two years of age have already developed bad habits, no thanks to their parents or caregivers. I can’t tell you how many barely intelligible “thank yous” I get every day from toddlers whose well-meaning parents have taught them how to show their gratitude to me. “San-koo-yoo” isn’t helping with the whole phoneme-learning thing, folks. And that’s just the pronunciation issue—the real problem is the total dependence on the caregiver (often a nanny or grandmother) to the point that the child can’t pick up a toy or place a puzzle piece without being coached and guided. Of course, they certainly have the ability to do that (and much more) on their own, but they’re never given a chance. And don’t get me started on the one-child challenge. A roomful of toddlers who have never even once shared space/toys/attention with another child is a sight to behold.
5) The classes are eye-openers for parents. Since this is the first (and only) child for these parents, they’ve never had a chance to compare their baby with any other. They are full of “Is this normal?” questions and get a tremendous amount of relief from the advice I offer and support from the conversation with other mothers. They really enjoy getting together for the classes—as much for themselves as for their babies.
6) The babies are very social. Having had several of my own preschoolers at once, I was not at all surprised by this, but what was surprising was the fact that most mothers were under the impression that their children would basically just sit silently and not interact with any other babies. They are delighted when their babies reach out (literally) or “talk” to each other. Most babies here don’t spend time with other babies—only adults (and plenty of them, at that), so it’s been fun to watch them become so social.
7) I love this work far more than I could have imagined. The babies are real little individuals to me and I love their personalities and uniqueness. Most of all, I truly love coming to class each day to be greeted by the little smiles and kicks and arm waves and squeals of delight. What fun!
I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to pursue this.