As an (aspiring) intellectual, you obviously hope that your offspring will one day follow in your illustrious footsteps. You probably had them signed up to a proper RAD ballet class before they were even born, and you are in frequent contact with Cambridge, just to make sure you don’t miss the admissions deadline for their September 2030 intake.
To help you on your way, I have drawn up a list of 10 top secret, super helpful tips to help you give your children the best possible head start in life.
Never miss an opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary. Even when you are telling them off:
You: “No, you do not have an inalienable right to after-school snacks!”
7yo: “Mummy, what is inalibabble?”
You: “I’m glad you asked.”
Any daily drama can be used to increase awareness of a larger moral, philosophical and political reality.
You: Here 7yo, you are in control of the remote.
2 mins later.
5yo: Mummeeeeeee, he is just watching what he wants and not what I want!
You: 7yo, are you using your power for good, not evil?
When your child wakes up in the night and needs soothing, you should only ever sing to them in multi-part harmony.
Every adult present should join in with their own part. If this happens in the middle of a dinner party, so much the better. Get your sheet music out or better still, improvise that second soprano or baritone part.
NB: Singing in harmony to a distressed child in the middle of the night is also the only reasonable excuse for singing Christmas carols before December.
Don’t hesitate to use a child’s own choices to increase their understanding of the forces at work in history.
You: “Why did you take that toy from your sister? That was not a kind thing to do.”
7yo: (surly) “I wanted it.”
You: “That’s what Hitler said about Poland, and look where it got him.”
Read them bedtime stories. In French. Don’t translate anything, they’ll pick it up eventually.
Every moment is a learning opportunity. Just keep answering questions and see where it leads you. Ride that wave. Follow that rabbit hole down blindly, with abandon, until you are knee-deep in an explanation of the Facts of Life, what a stroke is, how you might construct a carbon-dioxide powered car or trying to marry faith and science in the mind of a 7 year old who should be in bed.
Do not neglect the finer points of etiquette. Never mind if they are still struggling with how to pick up a carrot with their fork without using their hands, it is never too early to learn the correct placement and order in which to use cutlery for a three course meal.
Insist on extreme realism and accuracy at all times while they are playing. It is educational. They will end up unable to Do a Play without sorting out who is stage managing and who is programming the lighting desk, and composing songs that have verses, a chorus and a bridge.
Call everything by its proper, scientific name. You know you’re doing it right when this happens:
You: 7yo, where did those chocolates go?
7yo: They are going down my oesophagus.
Ask comprehension questions about everything. How else will you know if learning has taken place? Use Bloom’s taxonomy as a guide to make sure you cover all levels of learning. Just to start you off, here’s a few suggestions:
“How many rabbits did we see in the pet shop today?”
“Think about everything you have and have not done to look after your Fairy Garden over the past three weeks. Now look at the result. What do you think might be key factors in ensuring a healthy lawn in a garden, fairy or otherwise?”
“Why don’t you agree on a list of criteria for a film to watch while eating dinner and assess all the potential films you have put forward based on your criteria, to eventually come to a decision as to what you both want to watch. Hopefully before dinner is stone cold.”
Good luck, and keep me posted on those university applications!