Parent Tips

Why I Don’t Like Flashcards: An SLP’s Perspective

Ok, so let me start by saying I don’t hate flashcards. I’m not on a crusade to put Mr. Millionaire Flashcard Man out of business. From the perspective of an SLP, flashcards have a time and a place just like puzzles and pretend play. There are some great ones out there. I do recommend them…to SOME kids.

When I Don’t Recommend Flashcards

As an SLP, I don’t suggest parents of toddlers use flash cards.  When I say flash cards, I am typically speaking of a deck of cards parents get to teach the alphabet.  Especially if you have a little one who is not communicating verbally in a successful manner.  First of all, it’s not appropriate for their age.  That’s like taking a two year and teaching him skills taught in Pre-K.  Would you put a toddler in a Pre-K classroom?  No!  So why try to teach the skills?  They are not ready to soak in those skills yet.

If your toddler is not using language to make requests such as “juice” or “more juice,” that is much more important than being able to identify the letter B.  Your child needs to increase their vocabulary skills first and foremost.   Increased vocabulary skills is a precursor to reading.  It is necessary for comphrension.  You have to lay that foundation.  A home builder doesn’t start building a house at the roof.  The concrete must be done first.

Children should be exposed to print in books, not flash cards.  Looking at books increases vocabulary, teaches tracking left to right and other print awareness skills.   The child is seeing the letters in word form…not isolation. There’s a context for the letters.    This goes for toddlers to preschool age, maybe even kindergarten.

When I Do Recommend Flashcards

I like sight word cards for school age kids.  Kids have to be able to recall those on command at school so flashcards are one of the easier ways to practice.  Are there other ways to practice sight words?  Yes!!!  Flashcards for antonyms, shapes, colors and math facts are some others I would recommend.  However, don’t just use flashcards!  Pull the red flashcard and do activities around that all week.  Make a stop sign.  Eat red fruits.  Read the book “Red is Best.”  You follow me?  The activities give a context to that random word on the card.  You are reinforcing the concept WITHOUT drilling repetitively out of context.     Build off of them.  You can search Pinterest for tons of ideas!!

Like I said, I don’t hate flashcards.  They have a time and place for their use.  With toddlers is not one of those uses.    Teach the vocabulary skills necessary to understanding the meaning of those 26 letters in that deck.   Don’t put the cart before the horse.   Train the horse.  Work with the horse.  Teach the horse.  Then when you attach that proverbial cart, they are well prepared and ready!