Learning to read and write in school depends on the blending of many skills -- skills that grow as children interact with, and explore, their world in the early years.
Your little one will have a strong foundation for reading and writing if you have spent lots of time cuddling, talking, playing, reading, and exploring her world. However, it's important to keep doing all those things through the toddler years. Even though this little person is struggling to assert her independence, she still needs your nurturing guidance to learn the skills that lead to the next stage of development.
- Talk, talk, talk! By now, talking to your baby should feel pretty natural. She will begin answering you with “gibberish” that will gradually form into words, phrases and sentences. You'll be amazed at the number of new words you will hear every week!
- Read, read, read! Make reading a regular part of your daily routine. Since toddlers are usually very active, try choosing times of day when they are more calm, such as right after the evening bath. Choose books with just a few words on a page, and don't give up if he wanders off in the middle. Keep right on reading, and show him the pictures when he comes back. As you read a story, try asking him, “What do you think will happen next?” Make sure to have plenty of sturdy board books available for him to look at independently, perhaps in his own cozy “book nook.” And don't forget to take him to the library - where some programs are free!
- Sing and rhyme! Toddlers enjoy repeating songs, nursery rhymes, and fingerplays over and over. They delight in their sense of mastery when they can anticipate the next verse. When you use fingerplays and hand motions, you add another tool to help your child gain a deeper understanding of language.
- Play, play, play! Play time becomes learning time when you provide “grown-up” props (such as notepads, old calendars, greeting cards, menus, etc.) to use in pretend reading and writing activities. It also helps to join with him in the play and talk about what you are doing. When he plays with you, he learns important social skills along with new language skills.
- Write, write, write! Writing is a very important piece of the picture. Your toddler is starting to get the idea that those funny squiggles on the page communicate the story. Give her plenty of opportunities to draw and "write," and make a point of spelling out loud while you are writing (for example, as you write your child’s name).
- Explore, explore, explore! As your toddler explores the world he will have experiences that help him relate to the ideas he encounters in books. For example, a young child can relate to a story about picking apples much better if he has actually been to an orchard. A child learns with all of his senses. Look for things to do that involve them all.
This article is based on "Baby Steps to Literacy, "