Throughout the summer, we have discussed different areas of building early literacy knowledge for babies and toddlers, and we shared ideas of how you can do that.
When it comes to encouraging literacy skills, outdoor play is just as important for babies and little ones as indoor book- and toy-based play. When we think “early literacy,” we think of books, and storytime, and of sitting to either read or listen. We think of looking at pictures and telling stories with objects representative of the story’s objects (for example, a red ball as Snow White’s apple). What we don’t often think about are large (gross) motor skills and their part in literacy development.
Regardless of whether today’s kids will learn to print, write cursive, or type on a keyboard or screen – they’ll need to have strong fine motor skills. There are so many fun ways to build your child’s hand strength and coordination! At the library, we use Busy Boxes after storytimes with preschool-aged children; you can recreate these activities at home. Some of our boxes include:
Reading and vocabulary go hand in hand – one can improve the other, and vice versa. How fortunate that reading and talking to your baby is so easy! Little ones learn words at an amazing rate. The more words he learns now, the more he will be able to express and understand (spoken and written) later in life.
Nursery rhymes are perfect little songs for encouraging language development. Although they aren’t always sung, nursery rhymes do have a rhythmic lilt, encouraging that sing-song cadence that helps ingrain things into little brains. They are short, sweet, and easy to remember, and, as their name suggests, the words usually rhyme.
Many of us native English speakers don’t think twice about the language we use with our children – but if your native language is anything other than English, use it! Encourage grandparents, caregivers, or anyone else Baby interacts with on a regular basis to use the language with which they are most fluent. Contrary to some concerns, this does not confuse babies or delay their speech; it simply gives them more words to express themselves when they are ready to talk.
Writing…the most difficult to understand of the pre-literacy skills. How can I work on writing when my baby can’t even hold her own bottle? Writing definitely comes later when preschoolers have refined their motor skills and strengthened their muscles – but pre-writing skills are anything that can build those fine motor skills and muscles.
Lazy days of summer are perfect for spreading out a blanket in the shade and sharing some books with your baby. Picture books – even those written for very young children – are perfect for building your little one’s vocabulary, which in turn expands their entire world view. You might not use the word gigantic in everyday speech – but it’s in that story you just read about a dragon! Your little ones are hearing words from books that they won’t hear anyplace else at this age.
Talk, talk, talk… once your child starts talking, you start wishing they would stop! But since talking is such a foundational part of human communication – including literacy (reading) – the best thing you can do is… well, talk it up! We’ve written about how to talk with your baby or toddler, but what do you talk about? Easy… any and everything!
Here’s the great thing about babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and playing - it’s what they do! There’s no learning curve involved on “how” to play; give a baby a toy, and they will feel it, turn it, maybe even taste it. They’re like little scientists in the making!