Language and literacy development
Words are thoughts. The more words your child hears in his first years, the better positioned he will be to understand more advanced concepts in school. This does NOT mean that you need to do word flash cards and worksheets. It means that exposing your child to spoken and written language should be a regular part of your everyday routine. Here’s how:
- Describe what’s going on – Whether it’s your toddler’s bath or the ball your preschooler is playing with, use words to tell her what’s happening, and ask her to describe things to you.
- Encourage your child to “use your words” – Instead of pointing at something they want, or whining, let your child know that you’ll be happy to help him if he can tell you what he wants. Give your child the words to communicate their needs. For pre-verbal children, when they make a sound, like “bah”, to indicate what they want, give them the right words as you’re getting what they need (“OK, you want your bottle. Here is your bottle.”)
- Read, read, read – Make books a part of every day. Even babies benefit from the sound of your voice reading stories and nursery rhymes. They get acquainted with the rhythm of language, the mechanics of reading, and the joy of sharing words with the person they love most. Make books available for children to play with, and let them choose their favorites.
- Sing – Songs are a great way to learn about sounds, rhyme, rhythm and words. Sing to your child, with your child, and encourage your child to sing to you.
- Play sound matching games – A twist on “I spy” is to say “I’m looking for something that starts with a B. What in this room begins with a buh sound?”
- Point out words – While you’re driving, while you’re reading, in the store, point out interesting words to your child and spell them out. “That sign says STOP. S-T-O-P stop.”
- Drawing and writing – Make sure your child has access to crayons, pencils and paper and encourage drawing and scribbling. This will strengthen the muscles in their for hands when it’s time to start really writing.
Math and science
Number concepts are a delight to children. In fact, basic mathematical concepts are some of the easiest to grasp for preschoolers. Instilling a sense of joy, wonder and accomplishment around math and science early can help carry kids through times when they’re more challenged. Here’s how you can make math and science part of daily learning.
- Counting songs – Even from a very young age, children benefit from hearing the proper sequence of numbers. Counting songs (like Sally the Camel, One-Two, Buckle My Shoe) give context to the numbers and introduce children to their natural order.
- Count what you’re doing – When you’re putting strawberries on your child’s plate, or helping her put toys away, count together how many items you’re handling.
- Describe shapes – Play games that help your child identify shapes. During tidy-up time, ask your child to bring all the items of a particular shape to you.
- Talk time – Ask about what happened yesterday, what you’re doing today, and what might happen tomorrow. This will help your child develop an understanding of chronology.
- Make a beach – Supply your child with sand and water toys to explore texture, liquid, solid and mixing.
- Get outside – Give your child access to nature so she can observe what’s happening in the outside world. Describe things that you see (“Look, that bird is bringing food back to her nest to feed her babies” or “That grass has grown so much that it is making seeds.”)
- Cook together – Though meal prep time can be a very busy time, let your child help on occasion. Preschoolers can measure out ingredients, help time things, and mix ingredients together. Cooking is a wonderful hands-on way to put science and math in to action!
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