A TOS Interview with June Oberlander

/ / Kindergarten Korner

“Young children have short attention spans so it is important to capture the optimum time.”- June Oberlander

TOS: June, Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and explain why you developed Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready, A Parents’ Handbook?

June: My name is June Oberlander, a retired kindergarten teacher with over twenty-five years of teaching experience. I have two grown children and seven grandchildren.

The book Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready was developed initially for my daughter. She was confused by the educational jargon from books that she had read and found it difficult to decipher from books with appropriate activities that she could use to begin teaching her newborn (now 15 years old). She had read that newborns could learn far more than previously thought. My daughter wanted to know what to do, how, when, and what skills could be taught to a newborn. She asked me for help because she knew that I had taught preschoolers.

After using the activities for a while she commented that other mothers would benefit from using these activities. This motivated me to format and publish Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready, because I knew, from my teaching experience, what many preschoolers could know, but don’t know. They lacked various basic skills that could have been taught at home if parents had known what to do and how to teach them. Skills taught at the appropriate age are often much easier to learn than later.

TOS: For those people who have yet to read your book, please share with them the science behind the “Early Brain.”

June: Babies are born with billions of brain cells that are ripe for responding to stimuli. Unfortunately, many of their brain cells remain dormant due to the lack of proper stimulation at the appropriate time. The brain is similar to a computer as it receives and organizes information. There is a rapid rate of growth during a child’s first year. This is prime time for preparing the brain for learning patterns. A baby’s brain cells can be compared to a sponge. They are capable of absorbing information, using the God-given natural senses such as seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting.

Visual, auditory, and sensory stimulation can easily be activated if a parent is aware of what to do, why, when, and why. These types of interactions can be accomplished with a young child during very brief encounters, because attention span at this age is very short. Fine and gross motor activities, as well as thinking and simple problem solving skills can be introduced to favorably activate brain cells. It is essential to stimulate a baby’s brain cells. Proper stimulation, not “overstimulation”, is the key to maximize a baby’s developmental ability. It is often said that, “A baby either uses it or loses it.”

TOS: If you present this book to new parents as they bring their first child home from the hospital, what type of instruction would you give them?

June: I would introduce them to the book by telling them that babies are not born with directions. This book was written and published to help parents get off to a good start. Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready is essentially common sense on paper and is full of ideas that are so simple that no one should be intimidated with the information in this handbook.

In addition, I would like to make every parent aware of the capabilities of a newborn. Many parents do not have a clue as to how to interact with a baby. New parents are often overwhelmed and find life taxing just to feed and diaper a baby. They often fail to realize that they are the first and foremost teachers of their child. It is up to them to help the baby to develop to his/her fullest potential. Therefore, I would tell them that my book contains important information and is an ideal first book to help put them on the right track to bonding and enriching their newborn’s development.

Next I would tell new parents to tune in to their baby’s needs, because infants recognize their mother’s face, smell, touch, and voice. It doesn’t take much thought to change a facial expression to interact with a newborn and a baby will readily react by smiling or cooing, etc. I would also inform them that by touching and moving the baby’s body, arms, legs, fingers, and toes, while singing a little tune or chant, will serve to stimulate interest and soothe a newborn as well.

TOS: I’ve been working with my soon-to-be four-year-old daughter using a variety of approaches, including your book. Lately, she’s pretending to be a baby. She is the youngest of three children and even though I know that role-playing is a normal part of her development, how can I be sure she doesn’t need something more from me?

June: Some preschoolers often resort or regress for various reasons. It could be that they feel more secure by acting younger. Children seem to grow in spurts and may not understand fully how to maintain the proper or “adult expected” behavior. Some children act like babies because they see an adult dote over a baby or another child, and they desire that kind of attention. Other children may simply act baby-like to capture attention and for self-ego. In most cases, that I have observed, the problem goes away as suddenly as it began. It works with some children to correct them once and then ignore the behavior for the rest of the day. I would need to know the child and his/her personality to advise any further behavior modification.

TOS: In this new version of your book, you’ve included charts to help parents mark the developmental growth of their children. Understanding that all children progress at different rates, how does a parent know when their child may need professional intervention?

June: I am one that prefers to avoid labeling a child too soon when I suspect learning or behavior problems in a preschooler. All children need a chance to grow so that a learning style can be established. We all have different learning patterns. Teachers are often reluctant to label a child as a child of “special needs” even if he lacks some of skills listed in the charts. There are exceptions. For example, I have read that some autistic children have displayed normal behavior at first and then deviated to inappropriate behavior. Therefore, this would be an obvious red flag situation and this child should be referred for professional help. There are skills listed in the charts in the back of my book that cite the expected progress and development for a child of a given age. However, children do not develop at the same rate. Some are accelerated, some average, and some below. Some children are very “late bloomers.” This checklist guide may serve to alert a parent that the child MAY need extra help if he/she has not mastered most of the skills for his age level or those below his age level.

June Oberlander presents us with a way to reach out to our young children when they need us the most, in the early years. This book is like picking up the phone and hearing the voice of my own mother, encouraging me to turn off the television and get down and play with my youngsters. A must have book for parents, new or experienced. Thank you for offering us this approach to learning.

Publisher’s note: The Oberlanders have been a neat couple to talk to. They have recently translated this book into a number of languages. We have posted pictures of those books on our website…Come see what they look like. It’s really great what the O’s are doing for parents around the world! – Gena

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6