One day, he was eyeing them with interest in his eyes. “Sickle (circle).” “Star.” He said, while pointing to the familiar shapes he recognized. The unmistakable sparkle in his eyes and the eagerness in his voice gave me the go-signal to start touring around the world (and all for free!), albeit with the use of the flags.
Needless to say, a play-learn game also began on that day when I scooped him in my arms to face the collection of flags. By playing the Where-Is-The-Flag (of a country) game, tour we slowly did. Usually, I ask where-is and he’d point at the flag. Other times, I give him the liberty to point and tell me what (flag) country he’s pointing at.
Currently, he’s able to identify 17 flags. But I’m not in a hurry. Matt is only 22-months old. Besides, it’s just a game. He may continue playing, or he may not – and it would still be fine with me. It’s certainly up to him.
But we really have been touring everyday (and even several times in a day). On Matt’s cue, of course.
Like the books that I have given Matt, these visual aids are only made available to him without the thought of ever forcing him to learn these. He could choose to chew, tear or read the books and that will be fine with me (on the second thought, I could be frowning in the first 2 seconds but after that I'll definitely be okay -somehow, I'll find a way to put all the pieces back together :D). But the moment he says “Mama, read” or “Mama, tractor” or something like that, then I will readily be there to guide him. At least that’s my approach to his learning – by letting him take the lead.
Now back to the flags. If you’re wondering how I introduced the flags to a barely-2-year-old tot, here are some points:
1. Tell him of his current location or his origin. I started by telling my son of the country he is from. Consequently, the very first flag learned was the Philippine flag (for Matt, it's 'fins').
2. Speak of the loved ones who could be in this or that country. A child can easily grasp the information if a relationship is conveyed (or if you make a connection). “Canada is where Tita Che is,” I used to say. To this day, Matt (usually while pointing to the flag) still says, “Can’da, Tita Che.” Similarly, he’s learned to identify other flags like South Korea, Japan , United Kingdom and the USA.
3. Pick a flag that is obviously different. A very different flag or strange-looking one could have an advantage. An example of this would be Nepal.
4. Associate the flags according to the symbols or figures in them that a child could readily identify. Lebanon (has) a tree; Hongkong, flower; Brazil, globe; Switzerland, cross; Israel- stripes and a star; Kenya, (looks like) a spider; and Barbados, a fork.
5. Let him take the lead. In some instances, a child might point or show some interest on a particular flag. Tell him about it. Like this morning, Matt was pointing to the flag of Bahrain so I told him about it. This afternoon, when we were playing (again!), he was able to identify it (plus two others namely, Tonga and Vietnam).
6. As with other things, give praises or encouragement. Conveying your approval to a child when he has correctly identified something could help bolster his confidence. If he makes mistakes, you could tell him that it’s okay and to try (and try) again.
7. Make learning fun (for both of you). Promise not to laugh, but I am not way above from making exaggerated noises and funny faces (usually when he makes mistakes). Although it makes me feel oh-so silly at times, but hey it’s just a game so I'll make it like one and be the silliest. Besides, I think my son loves it. And he’s catching up, too. My imp of a son would tease me by pointing to the wrong flag and then he'd look intently at my face. After I make my funny-silly act capped with a fake fallen look, he’d take a cursory glance over the flags, point to the correct one and look at me in the face with mischief dancing in his eyes and playing on his lips. Hah! He is definitely enjoying it as much as I do.