The creator of the @thedadlab "laboratory" Sergey Urban spoke about bilingualism, the peculiarities of kindergartens in London and where he gets inspiration for his experiments, which are watched by 557 thousand followers on Instagram.
How it all began
I have an economic education. Ten years ago, my wife and I made the decision to move to London. At that time, it was not even in my mind to create an account and post videos there on how to entertain children - I worked in the specialty "international trade".
Having mastered a new place, my wife became interested in creating websites. I decided to join her: I quit my job and studied programming. When the eldest son, Alex (5 years old), was born, we already had several work projects, and I could afford to devote as much time to the child as I wanted.
Once my wife said: "Now Instagram is booming and we also need to create our account there." And since we were just learning how to be parents, I decided to focus on this and create an account about educational toys.
You know, in England there is one problem: you go into a store with a huge number of some cars, robots, hares - everything is beautiful, but no use. So the theme was born - I began to make collections of "development projects".
My son was growing up, two years later the second was born, we began to experiment and came to the conclusion that I renamed the account to "TheDadLab" - "Dad's Laboratory".
About parental fantasy
I am often asked: "How do you have enough imagination for all this?" In fact, not all ideas are mine on the page. I read a lot, look at other sites and Instagram accounts - I take some things from there or just get inspired.
When you need to keep your child occupied with something, fantasy works great: you look around and try to adapt any object for play. I try to make sure that every impromptu lesson is beneficial: it develops motor skills, logic, thinking.
About early development
In England, no one cares about early development - children just have childhood. If someone is confused by this, be sure: the person has Russian roots.
I do not have a background in the form of scientific papers on the topic of child development or academic pedagogical education - I am just a dad who has a useful and fun time with his children, enjoying it. It seems that someone didn’t finish playing in childhood, noticeably, right? Everything that is interesting to my children is interesting to me.
My attitude to early development is ambiguous - it has its pros and cons. I consider fanaticism the most destructive in any business - you need to maintain a balance.
We gave Alex a children's computer for a year - you press the button of the device, and the “laptop” calls out a letter. After 6 months, he knew the alphabet. Alex was so carried away by the process that the letters followed us everywhere: he showed them in magazines, on signs, on labels. Result: at two years old, the son began to read.
Someone will say that this is too early, but I did not force him to anything - we just helped him a little, answering questions.
Observe with your children, pay attention to what interests them and try to convey new information through the game!
My direct is littered with questions "for what age is this developmental", "what does it give to the baby?", "Can you give it from the age of two?" Guys, I don't know. I am not a teacher, not an educator, not a professor - I just suggest ideas for spending time together. I can only be responsible for what is relevant and interesting for my child.
At some point, I also went through the stage "and at what age is it possible?", And then decided that everything should be tried. If during the lessons you need some kind of tool, first offer it to your baby - perhaps while it is too complicated for him and you need to wait.
Until the age of two, my sons really liked the experiments with changing colors - two drops of dye in a bottle of water, and the children were delighted. After a year, they began to understand that this was not magic, but a reaction. Further more. Try it! Not today - tomorrow the child will grasp the essence and do what he could not do a month ago.
My approach: Intuitive parenting - I act on a whim. The task is to convey information to the sons so that they understand it and can apply it in practice. Sometimes we do some new experience, and Max shouts: "I know, now the water will freeze and increase in size!" And so it happens. No, we are not studying molecular compositions, we are learning to draw an analogy.
My wife and I were born and raised in Latvia, then moved to Russia, 10 years ago we ended up in London. As in any family that has moved to another country, we have a second language and our own language rules for communicating with children: at home only Russian, in the city - English. The exception is cartoons, songs. Sometimes we watch and listen to them in foreign language. The system works!
Alex has been immersed in the English environment for about 2.5 years and already speaks good English. He is a full-fledged bilingual! Max (3 years old) learns the basics of foreign language for about 3 months, but he is good at it.
I am convinced that before sending a child to school, where he is "covered" by English, you need to master Russian. If this is not done, the second language will supplant the first.
About English kindergartens
Unfortunately, I do not know how kindergartens are organized in Russia. In London, my eldest son and I changed two, before finding "our". At first, we got into one where they constantly run after the child and he does not need to strain to get what he wants - “they will come and give everything themselves.” Then we went to a place where there is nothing but games. Now we go to the Montessori garden - I got acquainted with this system for a long time and fully share its principles.
About failed experiments
I always post with successful experiments, but failures also happen. There is an experiment that we have already tried 3 times - we are trying to grow a plant. It turned out that it is not as easy as mixing baking soda and vinegar - you need patience, responsibility, awareness. Alex has already re-filmed the first part - landing several times, but haven't reached the second yet.
There are also such experiments that children are not able to repeat without my help. One of the most popular: using several glasses of water of different colors and adding different amounts of sugar to them. You can make a rainbow column out of them by carefully pouring the liquid from each glass into one vessel. The idea is superb, but my sons are making only brown porridge so far. Therefore, I do not exhibit such an experience.
I teach children to accept failures with dignity - they happen to everyone. If something does not work out for a long time, I put it in a drawer and wait for the right moment.
Here Alex, for example, is not at all athletic, and Max is the opposite. I put the younger one on a balance bike and he immediately went, the older one had to be taught. We do not force. Refusal or continuing education is the son's decision, not ours.
On the principles of raising children
I have one rule: if I have allowed something once, then it is possible! Each parent must decide for himself what is important and what is not.
There is a problem with normal food in England. We try to prevent our children from seeing chips, crackers, sweets, semi-finished products - we don't have that at home. We do not have a TV set either - I think that it negatively affects the development of sons.
When Alex was little, they gave him an iPad - after a couple of educational games, he quickly realized what sorting is. It seems to be cool, but after a while the son became aggressive and addicted - the toy had to be added to the "prohibited" list.
Now my son uses an iPad, but in dosage - after 15 minutes the screen is automatically locked.
About store toys and the rules for their selection
I used to buy toys, now manufacturers send them themselves - there is a section in my account where I test "razivashki". When choosing, I always pay attention to the developmental moment: is there any benefit from it or not. In England there is a problem with this criterion, I have already said.
Pay attention to Soviet toys - many of them are undeservedly forgotten. Nikitin's squares, for example, are simply gorgeous. Once I brought them from Kiev - the toy caused delight among my English friends: everyone wanted the same one!
I try to find something unique. Everyone knows the Rubik's Cube, but it is too difficult for children - my son will not solve it, and neither will I. I know people who, after my posts, buy toys from reviews in kindergartens - it's nice.
About what will happen next
Now my children are preschoolers - they are interested in what we do. I cannot predict and plan what will happen next. I am convinced that at every age you can find an experiment that will delight. And while my sons live with me, I will look for such experiments. My "laboratory" must grow with children!
Interview and text: Natalia Kapitsa