“A child who reads, will be an adult who thinks”- Emilie Buchwald
Inculcating literacy from an early stage contributes positively towards a child’s overall development. It builds the foundation in a child’s life to do well at school, socialize with peers, develop independence towards decision taking in life and manage money and work effectively. However, before a child learns to read and write efficiently, he/she needs to conjure the building blocks for literacy- the ability to speak, listen, understand, watch and draw. A parent needs to understand that early literacy development in toddlers is about everyday fun activities like playing games, singing, dancing and talking which attracts the child to get more and more involved with it.
Literacy is much more than just learning to read. It involves how children interpret and understand what is being read, as well as inculcate writing skills. When we start early and build on a child’s experience as they grow, only then they will LOVE to read and write.
Early literacy in children builds a foundation for future academic success and overall achievement. Providing young learners with the precursor skills to reading and writing sets them apart from peers and gears them up for achievement in the primary grades and offers them a path for critical language and literacy development.
Let’s see what are the few practical things that you, as parents can do to encourage literacy and learning in early childhood years or toddlerhood-
- Literacy Rocks
If you or your child have the time to collect 26 rocks, this uppercase and lowercase literacy activity could be played outdoors. Wash the rocks and write an uppercase letter on one side, with the corresponding lowercase letter on the opposite side. Then show words or pictures on cards and ask your child to re-create the word as given. This activity can be a big hit if played with care.
- Sorting Number Stickers
Draw a grid on a piece of paper and place a number in each box. Provide your child with a sheet of number stickers and let them stick the numbers into the grid box with the matching number. After all of the numbers are used up, encourage your child to write each number themselves in another grid box.
- Feather Tip Salt Tray Activity
The title of this activity says it all. In this activity, the child writes (letters, numbers or whole words) in their own tray of salt with a feather tip (or fingers). This activity is great for motor skill development and sensory development. However, as a parent be sure to give your child some time to explore the salt tray before their task to minimize confusion. (You can substitute salt with sand or energy drink powder for safety purpose).
- Number Match Game
This activity is great for teaching number skills to children in a fun way. All you need is a deck of cards and some tape. Your child has to recognize the pre-taped number cards stuck to the wall with the deck of cards in their hands and slap it to the matching card on the wall. This activity will lead to active involvement of the child and help him/her learn in a faster way.
This activity involves writing letters in random dotted patterns on paper. The child has to connect the letters in the way that the pattern is made so that all the dots are connected to each other to form the letter pattern.
- Sensory Messy-Alphabet Activity
This activity is quiet fun which involves the child writing letters with whipped cream on tinfoil. You can also provide the child with sprinkles and other cookie-decorating accessories and let him/her decorate their letter. This activity promotes learning by the engagement of all five senses while the children work on their letters and numbers.
- Snowball Throw Alphabet Game
Paper, tape and ping-pong balls are all you need for this game of ‘snowball’ throwing alphabet game. Tape a bunch of letters to a wall, call out the sounds and have your kids throw the snowball at the letter represented. This activity is great for their motor coordination.
- Crocodile-Bin Activity
Take a small bin and create a crocodile face on top with colored paper. Fill it with alphabet letter, numbers and surprise cards. This activity can be done with children sitting in a group where they can pass the crocodile around the circle singing “Crocodile, crocodile down by lake, I’m going to reach right in and see what (letter) you ate.” The child holding the crocodile bin then pulls a letter and calls it out. Extra surprise cards can let the child repeat a turn, reverse directions or anything else you want to include.
- Disappearing Chalk-Spray Letter Activity
This is an outdoor activity where you and your child can write the alphabets in chalk outside on the driveway. As you write, call each letter name and sound out loud together. For a challenge for older kids, you could ask your child to name something that starts with each letter. Then take a spray bottle of water and show your child how to spray each letter to make it disappear.
Such activities are enjoyed and valued by children and helps in bolstering literacy skills in them rapidly. It is important to make sure that the learning experiences during toddlerhood are enjoyable, playful and involves active involvement of the child. The whole experience should be engaging for your child and not a chore.