What follows are ideas for language activities. You can do them with your child to help her build the skills she needs to become a reader. Most public libraries offer free use of books, magazines, videos, computers, and other services. Other things you might need for these activities are not expensive.
For each set of activities, we show an age span suggesting when children should try them. From one activity to the next, we continue to talk about children at different stages: babies (birth to 1 year), toddlers (1 to 3 years), preschoolers (ages 3 and 4), and kindergartner/early first-graders (ages 5 and 6). Remember that children don't always learn the same things at the same speed. And they don't suddenly stop doing one thing and start doing another just because they are a little older. So, the ages given are just rough guides for you to use as your child learns and grows.
You'll see that your role in the activities will change, too. Just as you hold your child up when she's learning to walk, you will help her a lot when she's taking her first language steps. As she grows, you will gradually let go and she will take more and more language steps on her own. That is why in most of the activities it says, "The first activities . . . work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more."
As a parent, you can help your child want to learn in a way no one else can. That desire to learn is a key to her later success. Enjoyment is important! So, if you and your child don't enjoy one activity, move on to something else. You can always go back later.
For babies from birth to 1 year
Babies love hearing your voice. When you answer her sounds with sounds of your own, she begins to learn that what she "says" has meaning and is important to you.
What To Do
- Talk to your baby often. Answer her coos, gurgles, and smiles. Repeat the "ba, ba's" and "ga, ga's" she makes.Talk, touch, and smile back. Get her to look at you.
- Play simple talking and touching games with your baby. Ask, "Where's your nose?" Then touch her nose and say playfully, "There's your nose!" Do this several times, then switch to an ear or knee or her tummy. Stop when she or you grow tired of the game.
- Change the game by touching the nose or ear and repeating the word for it several times. Do this with objects, too. When she hears you name something over and over again, she begins to connect the sound with what it means.
- Do things that interest your baby. Vary your tone of voice, make funny faces, sing lullabies, and recite simple nursery rhymes. Play "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake."
For babies from age 6 weeks to 1 year
Sharing books is a way to have fun with your baby and start him on the road to becoming a reader.
Try To Find
Cardboard or cloth books with large, simple pictures of things that babies are familiar with
Lift-the-flap, touch-and-feel, or peek-through play books (Example: Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt is a classic touch-and-feel book. See Resources.)
What To Do
- Read to your baby for short periods several times a day. Bedtime is always a good time, but you can do it at other times, too while in the park, on the bus, or even at the breakfast table (without the food!).
- As you read, point out things that are fun to do in the pictures. Name them as you point to them.
- Give your baby sturdy books to look at, touch, and hold. Allow him to peek through the holes or lift the flaps to discover surprises.