1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 principles theories methods doman method glenn doman how to teach teaching learning playing fun flashcards genius baby toddler infant kid preschooler smart brilliant make

Principles of Teaching Babies & Toddlers

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 principles theories methods doman method glenn doman how to teach teaching learning playing fun flashcards genius baby toddler infant kid preschooler smart brilliant make

“Babies can learn absolutely anything that you can present to them in an honest and factual way and they don’t give a fig whether it’s encyclopedic knowledge, reading words, math, or nonsense for that matter. They’d prefer great things – reading, math, all the presidents of the United States, the nations of Europe, the great art of the world, the song birds of the eastern states, the snakes of the world, the kings and queens of England, the great music of the world, the international traffic signs, the dinosaurs, the state flowers, or any of the millions of fascinating things there are to know about on this old earth. But they’ll even take nonsense if that’s all they can get.”

How to Teach Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge

Glenn Doman proposed that you can teach a tiny child absolutely anything that can be presented in an honest, factual, and joyous way.

After implementing Doman’s philosophy with three kids in the last ten years, I’m here to tell you that it’s true: little babies and tiny tots are capable of learning virtually anything you might want to teach them, as long as it’s done in the right way.

What is the right way, you ask?

1. Believe in them

Of course, before you can teach a baby or toddler, you first must believe that they’re capable of learning what you’re trying to teach.

Just remember that babies and toddlers are already learning an incredible amount of information about their world. They are also learning an incredible amount of language.

Whatever language is in their environment, they will easily absorb. They will absorb the names of things (real life things or things they see in pictures and books) whether it’s “vacuum” or “elephant” or “Jupiter” or “Europe”. They will learn the names of characters, whether it’s “Mickey Mouse” or “Sponge Bob” or “George Washington”. They will learn many abstract concepts such as “big” and “hot” and, if it is part of their environment, “four” and “less” and “add”.

We are also learning more and more each year just how much babies understand, such as being born with an understanding of numbers (just like many animals are), and many more amazing things (just google “studies about babies” for a small glimpse at how much science is discovering about the incredible abilities of little ones).

Your baby or toddler is smart, capable, and wants to learn! If you believe in them, you can develop an incredible teaching dynamic.

2. Have a joyful and enthusiastic attitude

“Always remember that math is a game. It is fun! It is playing with your baby. In our experience those parents who approached the teaching of math with casual gaiety and imagination and who shouted their enthusiasm at each new accomplishment with unalloyed happiness, succeeded better than those mothers who showed intellectual objectivity and sober praise… Teaching is not a chore; it must not be a grind.”

Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby Math

Approach the game of learning numbers and words and presidents and butterflies with the same joy and enthusiasm that you approach the game of peek-a-boo or patty cake or “Where’s your bellybutton?”.

Little kids love adult interaction and are drawn to joyousness. And, they are completely impartial to content: learning “quadrilateral” is no more difficult to them than learning “hippopotamus”.

So be silly, be creative, make fun games out of learning beautiful things, and you will most certainly have success.

3. Teach quickly, in short spurts

Babies and toddlers are incredibly fast learners who absorb information from their environment almost effortlessly. That’s how they learn language so easily and quickly. They don’t need to sit down and memorize. They just absorb.

You can teach your child a lot in very short bursts. Spending 8 seconds showing them 5 different alphabet letters while you change their diaper. Or spending 15 seconds showing them 10 different species of insects before their evening bath.

Babies and toddlers are generally very busy, but teaching sessions need not take long. It’s just about working a few brief moments of teaching into your daily routines.



4. Leave them hungry for more

Waiting to stop a teaching session until the child is bored and disinterested is like having a dinner guest that overstays their welcome: it was a lovely evening at first, but you don’t really want to invite them over again because you know it will end in awkwardness and discomfort.

Don’t let your child associate teaching with boredom and negativity!

Be sensitive to your child’s mood and attention, and always seek to end each session while he is still excited about it and wanting more. This will change a lot in the early years: one week they might be totally engaged for ten or fifteen minutes, while a month later they might only be engaged for ten or fifteen seconds. 

If you pay careful attention to their engagement and always end each session leaving them with an appetite for more, you can create an incredibly positive teaching relationship with your child.

5. Don’t teach unless you’re both in a good mood

Teaching should be associated with warmth, lovejoy, and fun. So avoid teaching your child during times where they may be overtired, cranky, hungry, or not feeling well. A child who is any of those things needs to have those needs taken care of first. If you try to teach a sick or cranky child, not only will they be resistant to teaching, but they will associate teaching with the negative emotions and sensations they are experiencing.

It’s also a good idea to avoid teaching whenever you yourself are too tired, sick, or grumpy to approach your session with joy and enthusiasm. Put the teaching away for a time and focus on getting your mental, physical, and emotional health in order so that you can be a happy teacher.



6. Don’t try and teach with a bunch of distractions

Don’t try and teach when there is going to be a bunch of noise, people, newness, or other distractions. Turn off the the TV or any other background noise and be in a quiet and calm place whenever possible. 

7. Don’t bore them by going over the same information too frequently 

Don’t show the same materials too many times in the same day, or they’ll get bored with it, thinking something along the lines of, “We just did that, dad! Not interested.” 

You also don’t want to show the same materials for too long of a period. Teaching your child the same dinosaur picture cards week after week will bore them to tears: like adults, they generally aren’t interested in being taught things that they already know. Babies and toddlers learn pretty quickly and love novelty, so keep them hooked by regularly giving them new and fun information. 

I generally like to show my little ones things for a week or two (two weeks is usually what happens when we don’t get to the material every day), and then move onto new things. This applies for things like teaching picture cards of paintings, world flags, animals, etc.

8. Try and be consistent

It’s hard to be consistent. Really hard, sometimes, depending on what else is going on in your life.

But really, try and do your best. Because one thing that can happen is that your child loves the flashcards or games at first, but then you don’t do them for a while, and they can lose interest. It’s not impossible to gain the interest back, but it can be discouraging. 

So do your best to prepare materials ahead of time and set manageable routines. If you try to do a crazy amount of stuff to the point where it’s completely unsustainable, you’re going to fail. It’s better to do a little bit consistently than it is to do a lot inconsistently.



9. Don’t test your child

People of all ages dislike being tested. That includes babies and toddlers. While learning is joyful and fun, testing is generally stressful and uncomfortable.

When I say testing, I mean putting a child on the spot and requesting that they prove themselves and prove their knowledge in an unnatural way.

Interacting with your child is another thing. For instance, encouraging your child to say the numbers with you as you count their blueberries, or reading a book together and asking them if they see where the frog is, or showing them a flag and saying, “This is Panama. Can you say Panama?”

But even that sort of natural interaction can begin to feel unnatural if it is excessive or forced.

Remember that teaching is a gift. It is giving your child information, no strings attached. Don’t make your child learn to dislike learning because you are putting them on the spot in an uncomfortable and pushy way.

See this video on teaching versus testing by Janet Doman for more information.

10. Make materials clear and factual

When we talk to babies and toddlers, we naturally talk to them (give them auditory information) in a loud, clear, easy to hear voice. Likewise, when we teach our babies and toddlers with visual information, we should show them materials that are large and clear and easy to see.

Easy to see is important, because a child needs to be able to absorb the information quite quickly (due to the very short attention span they have most of the time). We also don’t want any images we use to be cluttered or confusing, because then it won’t be clear what it is we are trying to teach.

Also remember that babies and toddlers are brilliant at being able to figure out laws. For instance, have you ever heard a 3-year-old say a made-up word such as “mailer” instead of “mailperson”? Nobody taught them that word, they just figured out the rules of grammar on their own. Someone who swims is a swimmer, someone who runs is a runner, so someone who mails must be a mailer. 

So when you teach your child, “don’t give them theories and abstractions, give them facts, give them reality. From the facts little children are brilliantly able to intuit the laws.” (Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby Math)

And lastly, Glenn Doman’s fail-safe law is this:

“If you’re not having a great time and your child’s not having a great time, stop. You are doing something wrong.”




  • Steven Bhardwaj September 2, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Liz,

    Love the list! What were your thoughts while putting the list in order, and deciding what to leave out, etc?

    I’m going to be comparing different EL “HowTo’s” over the next couple weeks and thinking about how different folks approach it. I agree that IAHP has solid material, but they had to make a lot of tough choices in making their “one-size-fits-all” manuals. I think there’s a lot of room in recasting EL for narrower target audiences, do you think?


  • mariam January 7, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    thank you liz, i am passionate about early learning and i teach my baby from birth but , iwas searching the web too much about more clear information about glenn doman program,your blog gave me confidence and support.


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