Talking, reading, and singing with your child are important for building language skills and boosting brain development during the early years. When your little one is learning words and phrases she is building her vocabulary. She is learning to make connections between the words she hears and what she sees to build core knowledge about the world around her. The foundation for literacy is laid years before children even enter school, long before they can actually read and write. When you talk, sing, or read with your child you are promoting literacy development while nurturing her overall growth. There are lots of opportunities to read, sing, and talk to your child during everyday moments!
Below are ways that you can create rich, meaningful, and joyful engagement as you go through your daily routine:
Sing together: Songs are a great way for children to learn a language and build vocabulary. Sing a lullaby or a favorite song when putting your little one to bed. Or have a music party before lunch and encourage your child to integrate dancing and use language to describe how they are using their bodies. He can even make his own musical instruments, such as turning an empty container into a drum, to help him learn more about rhythm and tempo (fast and slow) while building math language dynamics (high and low). Listening to and playing music helps children learn how sounds are put together and language is constructed.
Walk and talk: Helping your child look at and explore his surroundings can spark conversation. The next time you are traveling by car, a bus or by an auto, or simply walking down the street, encourage your child to use her senses and describe what she sees and hears. If your child points to a store while walking in your neighborhood, you might ask, “What do you think is inside the store?” “What colors are the sign?” or “What other stores do you see?” By following your child’s lead and asking open-ended questions you are engaging in a language-rich conversation and building her vocabulary by introducing new words. You are also showing your child how to have a conversation, helping her
build important speaking and listening skills.
Eat together: Preparing a meal is a wonderful time to talk and listen to your child. While food shopping, label items to increase vocabulary and introduce new healthy foods to try. Narrate what you are doing as you cook, using a rich vocabulary, such as “Now I’m going to use this colander to strain the pasta.” When sitting down together encourage your child to use words to talk about new and familiar foods she is trying, such as spicy, crunchy, or sweet. Mealtime is also a great time to have meaningful conversations and talk about and describe what happened throughout the day or plan fun activities for another day.
Bath time: Bath time is a great opportunity to have fun with language! Introduce new vocabulary, such as different body parts (elbow, heel, etc.), words to describe water temperature (cool, tepid, warm) even science words such as “sink” and “float” while doing a science experiment and exploring which bath toys sink and which bath toys float in water. You can also make up fun songs while in the bathroom or try chanting to a silly tune as your child splashes in the tub.
Tell me a story: Reading to your child and telling him stories are an important part of learning to read and fostering language development. Create a library with all of his favorite books and snuggle up together with a book at bedtime or before a nap. Encourage your child to be an active participant by requesting him to help by turning pages or even repeating key phrases in the story.
You can also make a storybook of your child’s drawings (just staple them together and have your child draw a cover) and then have him “read” the book to you. Remember you can read anywhere, anytime! By pointing out the letters and the words in your everyday environment, such as the backs of cereal boxes, the words on a storefront, or the menu at a restaurant, you are showing him that print is everywhere, not just on books!
Always bear in mind that meaningful exchanges between you and your child are endless. The more you narrate what you are doing and engaging your child in conversation, the more you are building early literacy skills and helping them develop a strong foundation for success in school and later in life.