In our modern world, literacy is more important than ever before. It is never too early to introduce language and reading to your child. The first three years of life are very important in developing your child’s mind and abilities. Here are some ways to give your child an early and strong start:
Talk to your child all the time
No matter how young your child is, talk to him or her whenever you’re together. When you’re making dinner, cleaning, or going somewhere, let your child hear you talk about what you’re seeing, doing, or thinking. As your child gets older, ask questions and engage him or her in conversation.
Rhymes are fun to listen to and they help your child hear the different sounds in words.
Round and round the garden,
like a teddy bear,
one step, two step,
tickle you under there!
Using accompanying actions by walking your fingers on your child’s palm or head or tummy, and then stepping up the body to under the arms or chin makes it even more fun!
Here’s another rhyme (which can also be sung if you prefer):
Here is the beehive,
where are the bees?
Hidden away where nobody sees,
watch and you’ll see them,
come out of the hive,
one, two, three, four, five
For the actions—Put one hand in a fist and cover with the other hand and hold up. As bees come out, open hidden hand one finger at a time then fly the finger bees around.
Other suggestions are—Two Little Dickie Birds Sitting on a Wall;This Little Piggy; or Humpty Dumpty.
(If you don’t know these rhymes or are looking for more rhymes, let your internet search engine be your friend!)
Children love to hear people sing. Songs have rhymes and rhythms that help them learn. You could try:
I’m a little tea pot short and stout
Here is my handle, here is my spout
When I get all steamed up, then I shout
Just tip me over and pour me out.
Other songs you might try include Eensy Weensy Spider; Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; or The Owl and The Pussycat. Of course if they have actions as well, that’s even more exciting!
Tell your child a story you already know – or just make one up! It could be a folk tale, stories about your family, funny stories, or any story you both like.
Give everything a name
Tell your child what different things are called and explain what they do. Say things like “This is a phone. We use it to call grandmother.” Or “This is a clock. We use it to tell the time.” When talking to your child, use the names of things instead of words like “it” and “that.”
You can also play games that involve naming things. Ask your child, “Where’s your nose?” and then, “Where’s Mummy’s nose?” Then touch your child’s nose and say, “What’s this?”.
Point out words in the world
Show your child all the words you see while driving, walking, or taking the bus. Point out the word “Stop” on a stop sign, for example. Ask your child to find a new word every time you go out. This helps your child notice words and letters.
Read together every day
Once your child is six months old, read to him or her for at least 15 minutes each day. Experts say this is one of the most important things you can do! Make reading together a warm and loving time.
Listen to your child
Pay attention to what your child says, even if he or she is just a baby. Look your child in the eyes and show that you’ve heard him or her. This encourages children to keep trying to use words.
from Jackie French (Senior Australian of the Year 2015, Australian Children’s Laureate and much-loved author)
For Under 2’s—Eating your words ..
Make words out of alphabet spaghetti and slurp them up! This is a great way for little ones to learn 10 or more basic words, including their name. Stick to simple words for real things, like ‘dog’ or ‘cat’ (if you have one). By the time a child has eaten a word every day for a week, he’ll know that word. After a year, he’ll know 52 words. After 2 years, he’ll have more than 100 – an excellent basic vocabulary.
For 2 – 3 year olds—Feeling words …
Give children letters to feel! Cut large letters out of cardboard then paste different (eg fluffy, scratchy etc) materials on to them; wrap wool in different colours around the letters or glue fine sandpaper on to them.
For 4 year olds—Seeing words everywhere …
Display words around the house. This is a great way for children to learn what many common words look like before they try to read them in a book.
Write the names of household things (eg bed, door, bath) on cardboard in big clear lowercase letters. Stick them appropriately around the house at child height. Now and then remove the cards and encourage your child to return them to the right places. (N.B. Don’t stress about this or make it too challenging and, if it’s too difficult for your child, don’t do it. But if your child starts getting them right, celebrate with them!)
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