For any parent wanting to teach their toddler at home, an essential resource is the variety of education blogs on the internet.
Twenty years ago it would be a trip to the bookstore to find a book among whatever the store had to offer. The publisher would vet a resource before printing to ensure the information was accurate and achieved a specific goal. Now we can search what we might need/want on our phone within seconds because anybody can put anything out there.
Therefore, finding a reputable resource can be difficult. Some blogs use tactics to shoot up to the top of the search results, which means that just because it’s on the front page of your favorite search engine doesn’t mean it is a quality resource to use. Often you have to dig to find meaningful results.
Not all parents go to school for early childhood education, so we aren’t familiar with the milestones necessary to teach before preschool. The researcher training I received means that I know that I can’t stop at the first set of results. I need to be sure whatever information I walk away with is credible.
I don’t want to be teaching him incorrectly or placing an expectation on him before he’s cognitively ready because the blog has their months/priorities wrong.
What you’ll find below are some tips for vetting your research to determine if a blog is worth following or if they are spreading misinformation. Operating under the belief a child should be learning something before they are ready can make the task of preparing them for school frustrating.
How to Vet a Blog
There are several steps I follow to determine if a blog or article is credible, especially if it’s on a topic I am unfamiliar with, like childhood education. Many of these suggestions seem like common sense. Still, even I’ve been guilty of skipping a step or two, only to find a resource isn’t credible later.
- Go to the experts first. Determine what your national standards for a particular age and their recommendations are. I find these sites can be a bit stuffy for their ideas, which is why I branch out into the wilds of the internet.
- Decide what you are looking for: activities or material for teaching.
- Activities do not need as much vetting. Before you start the project, you can determine if it will be age-appropriate or doable.
- Material for teaching is where it gets dodgy. If your child is interested in Space, you may find that you stumble upon a set of blogs that advocate for alternative theories on planet shapes. Even the ones that promote mainstream ideas may have incorrect facts that you inadvertently teach your little ones.
Vetting a non-scholarly/non-expert blog
- Search for the activity or material you want to do with your little one. Read the blurbs underneath the site header on the search page to determine what the site will offer before you click on the link.
- Once you click on the site, make the following observations. These are all meant to help you determine the resource’s motivation for getting you to visit their page:
- What is at the end of the domain address? Is it a “.com,” “.edu,” or something else? My blog is a “.blog” for reference. This observation will determine the type of site you are visiting. Anything that isn’t .edu/.gov/.org (though .org can be problematic at times) means that the site is commercially run. It doesn’t mean they aren’t an expert, just that they may have other motives to draw you to their website ($$$).
- What do you see when you first visit the site? Are you met with pop-ups to join a newsletter? A bunch of ads (if you don’t use ad block)? Cluttered layout? None of these are bad on their own, because they earn the blogger money. Still, it helps you determine their monetary motivation. If you have to join a newsletter to get the resource, the blogger may spam you or try to sell you something.
- Is the resource sponsored? Many bloggers who want to remain reputable will disclose the sponsored post. If the post is sponsored, is it a company you are familiar with? If it isn’t, again, not a bad thing, but you may want to do a more thorough check to determine if the product is worth getting or if you’re going with an analog. If the blogger does not disclose sponsorship, but it is clear that’s what is happening, then consider finding another resource.
- Check to see if there is a clear bias on the page: this can be a belief system, lifestyle, or product recommendation. Again, none of these are bad, but it might affect the material or activity you want for your little one. It is just something to be aware of as you set it up/do your research.
- Check the length of the post. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, but I do find there is a healthy balance in some of my favorite resources. If a post has too many pictures before getting to a very short blurb on the activity, I am less likely to stay and use that specific resource. Likewise, if the post is too short, and I need more information, I’m going to go elsewhere.
- Does the information match up with the pre-research you did on the actual expert blogs? If not, but it looks like something you could use later, it would be worth bookmarking until then. But be mindful of all the other information posted on the blog.
- See if they link out to other resources within the post, especially if you are looking for teaching information. I try to link out to other blogs/resources as much as I can to demonstrate my ethos and commitment to quality blogging. This isn’t super important to your vetting process, but it may mean that they are a blog worth following for future ideas.
It may seem like a lot of steps to go through to determine a blog’s relevancy, but it’s worth it because it can weed out the bad information. Many blogs you stumble upon on the first page of a search are there because they deserve to be, but sometimes you manage to get a less reputable one in the mix.
Below are my current recommendations for some favorite childhood education blogs.
I was not compensated in any way to include these blogs. These are purely my recommendations from my research and experience.
Expert Blogs (US Only)
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Early Learning from the Department of Education
- Administration for Children & Families from the Department of Health and Human Services
How to Teach Toddlers at Home
Preparing Toddlers for Preschool
- Zero to Three: How to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool
- Parents.com: How to have a Tear-Free First Day
- Huffington Post: How to Prepare Your Child for School
Fun Educational Activities to do at Home
- Hands on as we Grow: Toddler Activities
- Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds: Fun and Easy Activities
- Busy Toddler: Super Easy Toddler Activities
What are some of your favorite bloggers out there? I am always looking for more recommendations to add to my reading list. Leave a link to your blog (or someone else’s) in the comments.
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Featured photo credit: Canva