Why I value “Early Literacy Skills” as a developmental milestone:

As children grow, they reach milestones every other day. And I have witnessed first hand, as a teacher as well as a mom, how strong foundational skills are so very critical for children to attain their developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things that most children at a certain age should be able to do. Children achieve these as they observe, explore, play, move, act, learn, speak, and so on. Broadly speaking, developmental milestones can be grouped into 5 major areas: physical growth, sensory and motor development, emotional and social development, language development and cognitive development. Given that these milestones are well researched and scientific in nature, parents, teachers, doctors and nurses refer to these in the form of a checklist for screening purposes. Observing, testing, assessing and recording these milestones from time to time helps parents and professionals to monitor the children’s growth and development. Ideally, attaining these milestones is supposed to be a joint venture for parents and teachers wherein both parties provide the children with umpteen opportunities, consistently, so they can learn and grow in an age appropriate manner. Taking that a step forward, as a teacher mom, I believe that milestones are also about preparing the children for their next milestone. And I have seen that the pandemic is unfortunately having a terrible effect on the growth and development of young children as both parents and teachers are struggling to cope. To address this issue, we, as parents and teachers, need to modify our roles as well as expectations and adapt to the new normal. We need to step up because our children deserve to learn and grow regardless of the pandemic. They have a future and they are the future.

A good place to start would be by finding out “what my child is supposed to do and know, at his/her age. And how can I help?” Although developmental milestones are common to most children, each child has his/her own learning journey. Not only do they have their own strengths and weaknesses but also their own learning styles. To add on, they have their own interests and inclinations as they learn at their own pace. I have a 3 year old, turning 4 soon and thanks to my teaching knowledge and experience, I am well versed with what she’s supposed to do and know at this point in her life. To be honest I am not as concerned for my girl’s physical and socio-emotional milestones because she is generally doing well out there.

However, during the course of the pandemic, I started to get a little concerned about her formal schooling skills: reading and writing skills in particular. Call me traditional, but I do believe that these skills, even today, serve as a strong foundation in education. In my experience, the perfect blend of the traditional and modern educational skills and practises have shown the best result in raising well rounded learners. We don’t know what the future holds, so we need to prepare our children in every way. Young children need to be exposed to all sorts of learning opportunities so they can discover their strengths and work through their weaknesses as they learn and grow. Yes, the pandemic has been rough on young children as well as early childhood educators. And as stressful as it can get to balance the roles of a parent and a teacher to the same child, I still give it my best shot because my child doesn’t deserve to loose out on her developmental milestones just because we are in this global pandemic. I feel so blessed to be a teacher mom and that’s why I choose to make time in our busy schedules to use my expertise and help my child strengthen her formal schooling skills.


How? For starters, to enhance my girl’s reading skills at home, I make it a point to read her a book everyday. My first go-to-activity for her has always been “Let’s get a book.” Why? Her reason will be “because its so much fun!” My reason is “because reading a book has so much value in it.” Through that she learns how to handle a book, how to track the pages from left to right and top to bottom, how to turn the pages one at a time, how to hunt for letters of the alphabet and now even for high frequency words like you, the, and, is. She even understands and appreciates the job of an author and an illustrator. We talk about the story line, evaluate characters and their actions, take turns to ask and answer simple questions and talk about our favorite part of the story. She’s gotten so good at it by now because I remember reading a book to her every single day even back when she was younger… we explored sensory books together, we read picture books, I spoke about the pictures to her, we pointed to identity characters and objects in those pictures and gradually she started to speak about the pictures herself, as she turned 3. She then started to sequence the events of the story and even associate the story with her own experiences. Now, she is interested in not just the pictures but also the print. This is a kid who started recognising her own name so early in life because she was repeatedly and consistently provided opportunities to identify her name. We even sang songs to learn the letters in her name like in the BINGO song. Now, she can not only identify but also spell out and write her name by focusing on each letter in her name. She is sounding out letters, pronouncing the words properly and expressing herself in complete sentences by now; at times even modulating her voice to suit different characters and their emotions throughout the story. I feel so very proud of her as she is learning to experience the “joy of reading”, to not just expand her knowledge but also her imagination.


Coming to writing skills which is the least looked forward activity for any parent, teacher or even children, as they start approaching kindergarten. It’s hard, it needs precision and can be time consuming. Children between ages 3-6 generally love to express themselves by speaking it out and they can go on and on and on…But when asked to pen it down in some form, they tend to make it brief, vague and abrupt. I did get concerned when I noticed my girl lacking behind in her fine motor skills. She has immense curiosity for print around her but didn’t quiet show any curiosity for penmanship: be it through scribbles or drawings even. So here’s what I did. I tapped on technology for this skill. I introduced her to my Apple Pencil and showed her the “power of penmanship” on an iPad. It blew her mind off and got her so ready to pen things down. Hands-on, engaging, creative and exciting for the both of us. I spent time trying to guide her how to hold a pencil correctly which is so very important for her to draw efficiently. Before the pencil, she did use crayons and markers to scribble around, but that was with a reflex grasp called the “palmer grasp” which is great for exploration. But now at age 4, she needs to convey meaning through her drawings and writings which requires her to use her “pincer grasp” and even her “dynamic tripod grasp” for stability and detail. While teaching her about the correct pencil grip, I realized that she does have strong fine motor skills thanks to all the play dough we played with in her toddler days but I had somehow not guided her to apply her fine motor skills on paper. Probably because writing as a skill is something that we as adults rarely use these days. We type, but thats not a writing skill. And I do want her to learn writing as a skill. I do believe in the science of graphology. So, we worked hard and yet kept it fun and interactive with activities involving tracing, colouring, erasing, and simple drawings of people and things around us. Now, she is excited to write her name, and even other’s names by asking them to spell it out for her. She has learnt to write from left to right too. We play fun games like “Copy”, where we take turns to copy each other’s drawings, shapes, numbers and writings. Sure she mixes uppercase and lowercase letters during her writing exercises and makes some directional errors too but that’s just a part of learning at this stage. The perfectionist in me, makes her fix it but then again sizes and formations are something that takes a while to develop. I’m being patient and also am so very excited that we are finally heading forward in our writing quest, and what makes it even more exciting is that she shares my excitement as well!


Here’s what I believe in: Whatever day and age we live in, everyone should have an opportunity to learn reading and writing as life skills. One does learn to write better by reading, and read better by writing. Reading and writing as skills work together to enhance our thinking and communication skills. “The more we engage with these skills, the better we get at them, the better we get at them, the more we like it and the more we do it. Let’s not forget that these skills make all other future learnings possible and I truly believe that learning is a not only a lifelong process but also a skill in itself. What better way to prepare for life than get a head start in the early years of life.

Why not to compare children and what I do instead

Stay unique… and make your own mark!

As mothers, we start comparing our little ones, the very minute we conceive them. Understandably so, because as moms, we want to know whether we are on the right track, doing the right thing. And if we experience any sort of deviation from the normal, we start or continue to compare even more. Why? If you are anything like I am, its because I want to ace it… give it my best, be the best (or at least the closest possible to the best). Thankfully so far, I am not comparing my child to any other because I personally don’t like being compared to anyone. I don’t like that feeling and I’m grateful that my mom didn’t do that while raising me. However, coming from a culture where comparison and competition is still common, I did experience it nevertheless. But as a mom, I try my best to refrain from the tendency to compare my child to any other.


Having said that, I don’t live in a bubble. Sure, I am in touch with the world and its expectations. Instead of competing and comparing, I learn from my experiences and from the people around me. Although I don’t feel right about making direct comparisons, I do, however, use benchmarks and milestones. I have learnt to not obsess over them anymore because we are all unique and we need to value that about ourselves. EG: I remember my baby was not showing any interest in rolling over, scooting or crawling like other babies her age did but then she skipped a couple of milestones and started to stand and even walk in no time. That’s when I knew that my child is capable of knowing what she wants and focuses all her energy on achieving that goal. Ignorance is bliss for babies. Now, just because I don’t compare my child doesn’t mean that I believe in “lazy parenting”. (I’m not judging parents here but that term is a legitimate style of parenting now and I respect that). There’s nothing lazy about lazy parenting style but its not my style. I am a borderline helicopter parent who is trying hard to stay with the positives of that style of parenting. I do have great expectations from my child and those I have based on my knowledge and experience as an early childhood educator. And in my 12 years of experience in the field, I have consciously refrained from comparing my young students too. I, however, find ways to turn around those statements of comparisons.

So here’s how I do it and why:

When saying “Why can’t you be more like XYZ?”, we are blatantly telling our child, that he/she is not good enough. Instead, I can turn it around by looking into that specific trait or skill that XYZ exhibits. And if that is something I feel my child can benefit from, I will introduce that trait or skill to her. I would focus on the process of becoming, rather than the outcome and be a part of her learning journey. Play a responsible and equal part in that process rather than isolate her to reach the outcome and find a way to be like XYZ.

Every time we habitually or even casually praise someone else and then immediately follow it up by criticising our own child, we are making a direct comparison. On purpose or not, while doing so, we are not only damaging the bond we share with them but also the relationship they might have with the XYZ. This might lead to some passive aggression that gets projected toward the person criticising and also the person being praised. And this could cause some deep set emotional and social bruises for life where the child as an adult might have trouble appreciating the good in others because somewhere its gotten linked to their own self worth.


I would like my daughter to see the good around her and make her own decision of whether or not to imbibe that as a part of her individuality. When I say, “Did you see how XYZ did that? Would you like to do that?”, she learns that just because someone is good at something, doesn’t mean that she is not. And if she chooses to, she can do it too. That’s when I, as her mom, am all in, for setting her up for success. This is a positive mindset at work and I would like her to internalise this mindset to function and succeed in the competitive jungle out there. Praising someone doesn’t need to have a toxic effect on her personality. In fact, when I praise someone else, I am bringing her to notice the good around, making suggestions, and even sharing my personal preferences about what I like and what I don’t. Now as she’s turning 4 soon, there are times, I even highlight the not-so-good things around and gently guide her to make the right choices. Most of the times, she does get the difference between good and bad choices.


And when she makes her choices, I would like her to make it for herself, because she finds it right. Not because she wants to please me or anyone else. We tend to make comparisons because we want to motivate our children to succeed and be like or better than an XYZ. But somewhere this teaches the child to follow a herd rather than be their own uniquely productive self. Following a herd mentality also teaches a child that we have to be a part of the group, come what may. So, what happens when my daughter encounters a group of people making poor choices together? Does that make it right? That’s why I like to emphasise to her that just because someone is making poor choices, we don’t have to join in, even if it’s a friend we like or a lot of friends we might want to be liked by. We need to use our own beautiful mind to make good choices because we find it right. And its amazing how she’s able to make those choices… again, most of the times.

Children are much more capable than we think they are. We need to give them more credit for that, at least I do. Their minds absorb like sponge…the way we speak to them and speak about them gets internalised in them overtime and we should choose to look at that as a big plus point.

Speaking of capability, my child has her own interests and abilities which I, as her mom, need to encourage and facilitate. I try really hard not to enforce my own interests on her. I also try hard not to make her take up a skill just because everyone is doing it. Again, following the herd mentality can be counter productive. I not only respect her personal interests but also keep the expectations realistic. Let’s face it, trying to achieve something that one isn’t interested in and is not capable of, can only lead to frustration and stress. She rather be frustrated and stressed learning something that she actually wants to be good at. That kind of stress is good because those frustrations and mistakes only make one better.


This brings me to the aspect that’s so very important when my daughter is succeeding or even failing forward : LOVE, unconditional love, at all times. I always make it a point to appreciate her choices, her efforts and her struggles, however big or small. That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed when she makes poor choices. And I rightfully express that disappointment to her by saying “I love you a lot and I always will. I am feeling sad right now because I am disappointed in your choices. I know that you can do better than that! How can we make this better?” Right there, was love that’s unconditional, real feelings that are momentary consequences, faith in her abilities which didn’t reflect in her current choice, a confident resolve to fix it as a team. This routine keeps her more grounded and motivated to be her best, than me having to make comparisons. This is about her, and only her. We talk about her choices and their consequences while speaking of her and her only. She learns that she is capable of making better choices, by herself and for herself . This is a personal growth mindset that focuses on her and her alone.

Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And that line has stayed with me for years. Comparison does take away the fun of learning to discover and be the best version of ourselves. If we do have to compare, let’s compare us to ourselves as we challenge ourselves to learn and grow for life!