Whenever I speak to a group of new moms, I learn what is on their mind. Yesterday I talked to a delightful group of new moms at Greenwich Hospital and some of the same questions came up like how to raise your child bi-lingual, what about baby talk and when should we dump the pacifier. But a new question to me came up–Is it okay to use flashcards?

I’ll be honest, my first reaction when I hear the word “flashcards” is wait a minute, that’s what you use to drill skills with kids who are behind. Why would you use them with your baby or toddler? Then I remembered several moms whose homes I have visited who shared “cards” that their children loved. These sets of sturdy cards with individual objects, animals, and things that go can serve the same purpose as a good book if used properly.

You want to be your child’s play partner, not a teacher drilling words or concepts. Kids like play, not pressure. So use the cards (I prefer to call them that rather than flashcards) as you would a good book whose pages you would describe. “Here’s some sticky red jelly that we can put on your sandwich.” After naming the object, use the word in several sentences describing the object and relating it to your child’s experience to expand their language. Do NOT use the cards as a drill to try to teach your child numbers or vocabulary. They will learn these concepts naturally as you have fun with the cards and enjoy the play experience.

Kids like to manipulate the cards and choose ones for you to elaborate upon. The cards really become a book taken apart so your child can hear about the pictures in whatever order they want. One set that is loved by kids is the My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards by DK. The series includes First Words, Animals, Numbers and Counting, and Colors and Shapes. These interactive cards have textures to describe and keep your child interested. A 9-month-old will enjoy looking at the pictures and start to become interactive, feeling the textures, while a 12-month-old or 18-month-old will start to name the pictures.