The preschool years are exciting ones for language and literacy development! There are so many thing you can do to guide your preschooler. You can continue to do many of the tips previously mentioned in the previous articles in this series: across the ages, toddlerhood and infancy. Many habits you start when your child is an infant, such as reading daily and filling your house with books, continue on for a lifetime. Continue activities mentioned in the toddler post like visiting the library and letting your child handle books on their own.
For your preschooler’s language and literacy development, try out these tips:
1. What’s in a name? A preschooler’s name is very important to them. The first letter many children recognize is the first letter of their name. The first word many preschoolers recognize is their name. What can you do? Put their name EVERYWHERE! Get a puzzle of their name, put their name on the wall in their bedroom, make a sign for their door with their name, write their name on every picture they make, and make up songs about their name. Another tip is to point out when you see letters from their name. You can point out the letters in books, signs, posters, food packages—everything! Preschoolers get so excited when they see “their letters.”
2. Variety is key: Preschoolers need a good assortment of reading materials. This means a variety of fiction and nonfiction books as well as magazines or newspapers. They should see you reading and enjoying materials. Also, preschoolers start to see that reading and writing play multiple purposes in life. Have your preschooler help you make grocery lists before going to the store or write a letter to grandma. Can they really write the words? No. But they will learn that writing is important. Another key to keeping your child’s attention is providing a variety of writing materials—try pencils, pens, crayons, markers and paints!
3. Have fun with language: Did you know a major prereading skill is being able to rhyme? Yet many children these days don’t know nursery rhymes! Sing and read nursery rhymes together. When you read a rhyming book such as The Cat in the Hat, leave out the second rhyming word in a series, letting your preschooler chime in the rhyming word. For example:
The sun did not shine,
It was too wet to play,
So we sat in the house,
All that cold, cold, wet _____.
It’s also fun to sing rhyming silly songs like Down By the Bay. One that many preschoolers enjoy (because it uses their name) is Willoughby Wallaby Woo. It’s a simple rhyme. I will use the names Lisa and Mommy as an example:
Willoughby Wallaby Wee
An elephant sat on me!
Willoughby Wallaby Woo
An elephant sat on you!
Willoughby Wallaby Wisa
An elephant sat on Lisa!
Willoughby Wallaby Wommy
An elephant sat on Mommy!
4. Letters, letters, everywhere: There are many ways to encourage identifying letters and letter sounds. Start emphasizing beginning letter sounds by putting them into everyday conversations, “MMmmm, mmmm, Mommy starts with mmmmm, mmmm, M!” Find different types of letters to add into your house. I love foam letters for the bathtub and magnetic letters for the fridge. You can also get puzzles with letters on them or some letter games like Boggle Jr. or Scrabble Jr. Those games are great for children who already can identify many of their letters and sounds. They key to learning letters and sounds (just like the key to learning most things in life) is to make it FUN and MEANINGFUL! You won’t find many children who want to sit and memorize flashcards. You will, however, find many children who want to go on a letter hunt! Go for a walk outside or even around the house to find and identify letters!
5. Communicate with your preschooler: Many times, we get so wrapped up in the daily bustle of life that it seems like we’re barking orders all day. “Pick up your toys!” “It’s time for dinner!” “Get ready for bed!” These types of interactions don’t allow for preschoolers to develop their vocabulary or communication skills. It’s important to engage and communicate with your preschooler. You can do this by asking open ended questions. Instead of asking if your child had a good day, say, “What was one thing that happened today that was amazing?” You’ll get more than a yes/no answer, which will allow you to follow up with more questions about their activities.
6. Model pre-reading skills: Learning proper book-handling skills comes from watching a good model. When you read a book with your preschooler, try modeling these skills:
- Always say and point out the title, author and illustrator of the book.
- Show the book end and title page if the book has them.
- Point to the text as you read.
- Make predictions and ask questions out loud.
7. Picture read: Before your preschooler actually begins reading on his or her own, let him tell you the stories in books based on the pictures! Hopefully, you have been modeling those pre-reading skills, and your preschooler will do the same. Encourage them to start by telling you the title and author. Let them make mistakes! The story doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be word for word. It is so adorable to hear children “read” stories to their family members.
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