I love the group "Too Small to Fail" and what they stand for. I will update articles and posts from them that relate to speech and language acquisition of toddlers and preschoolers.
The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Children
Reading aloud to children from birth has many benefits for both parents and children—and can be great fun! No matter how young, children can learn a lot when they are read to, and benefit a great deal from the cuddling and bonding that accompanies a reading session. In addition, the act of reading aloud to children is highly beneficial to both their vocabulary growth and in preparing them for school later on.
Even from birth, children are absorbing language by listening to their parents and caregivers talk, read and sing to them and others. When parents and caregivers read to their children, they help instill a love of learning and language in their children that helps build self-esteem, confidence and curiosity. According to research by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), reading has been found to be the “single most important skill” for a productive life.
Unfortunately, according to Read Aloud 15 MINUTES, only 48% of young children in the United States are read to each day. And studies have shown that as many as 10 million children struggle with basic reading in school.
Parents and caregivers can inspire a love of books in their young children by reading books together every day, in any language. And it doesn’t matter how young the child is; even newborn babies show interest and excitement when their parents read simple books to them as they cuddle or nurse them, or when parents describe the pictures in a book during a short play session. No matter the book—and no matter the age—children will learn to love reading if it means spending more time with loved ones.
Making Active Play Happen Every Day
When it comes to brain-building activities, nothing comes more naturally to babies and toddlers than play. Active play, or play that gets kids moving, is important for the healthy development of motor skills, muscles, and coordination. A baby is actively playing when she stretches her tiny arms to reach for an object or starts to crawl. For a toddler, it can be bouncing to the beat of a song you sing, running down the sidewalk, or climbing stairs.
Active play gives kids an opportunity to explore their surroundings, and is a fun way to get the exercise they need. As they grow, young children need plenty of time to stretch, run, jump, and play. In fact, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that toddlers get at least 90 minutes of active time a day, while preschoolers should get a full two hours. Getting that kind of exercise regularly will boost your children’s long-term health, and build healthy habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Active play can happen almost anywhere. Parents and caregivers can head outside with their children to take a walk, play tag at the playground, or toss a ball. When at the playground, ask your child what she’s doing – how high are you going to climb this time? How many times can you jump rope? Walking is a good opportunity to exercise and describe the world around you: what bugs do you see? What color are the leaves?
Families can bring active play inside by having dance parties, acting out stories, or better yet, inventing a new active game together!
Resources for Sharing:
When young children dress up as superheroes or doctors, or imagine that a cardboard box is a spaceship landing on the moon, they are taking part in pretend play. By pretending, children build their social and emotional development, and learn vital life skills, all while having fun.
Children explore their feelings about new situations and interactions with people through pretend play. Researchers have found that imaginary play helps children learn how to control their emotions and impulses by allowing them to practice first how they will speak or act in any given situation. Much like adults might practice a speech in front of a mirror, children use pretend play to prepare how they will behave in real life. And when they engage in pretend play with other children or adults, they learn how other people react in different situations, too.
Pretend play also allows children to test out language skills that they may otherwise be unsure of, as they talk out loud about their actions and those of imaginary friends.The best kind of pretend play doesn’t require special toys or equipment: simple, inexpensive items laying around the house work great. Parents can encourage pretend play in their young children by providing them with safe, household items like old clothing and recycled cardboard to prompt their imaginations—and by joining in the fun, too!
Resources for Sharing:
· This article from PBS Parents suggests some ways that parents can encourage pretend play in young children.
· Research on the importance of imaginative, open-ended play from NPR.
· This article from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood explains the benefits of pretend play, and offers tips for parents.
· These powerful quotes might inspire you to engage in imaginative role-play with your kids.
A Little Rhyme Time!
A Little Rhyme Time!
Why do children love rhyming so much? In addition to the many opportunities for pure silliness, rhyming helps children learn language in an effective and entertaining way. Rhyming helps build memory, strengthen language skills and introduce musical timing to words. And it’s a language tool that’s been used for centuries by people around the world.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), rhyming and poetry are important ways parents can promote early brain development and boost vocabulary in their young children. Many books written for babies and toddlers use similar sounds and speech patterns that help them learn new words. But rhymes are also learned directly from parents and caregivers, and then passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.
The AAP recommends that parents share rhymes with their children—either by reciting memorized nursery rhymes or reading books in rhyme—and work in some fun and snuggling, too. By playing simple games, like clapping to the rhythm in a poem or rhyming words to the names of everyday objects, parents can encourage creative thinking in their children and create wonderful memories that can be passed down to future generations.
Resources for Sharing:
· This article by PBS Parents offers ideas and information about the history of rhyming to help children learn.
· We’re focusing on the arts again this week! This infographic and blog post offers ideas for parents on how to bring rhyming and other artistic activities into your lives.
· This FREE rhyme booklet from the Perry Public Library will help parents and their children get their rhyming on!
Preparing for Preschool
A child’s first day of preschool or kindergarten can be exciting for him and his parents alike—it represents a rite of passage into later childhood. But that first experience in school can also be challenging, especially if the child is unprepared. This period of early education can be especially troubling for young children today, who are expected to keep up with more rigorous academic standards than those of just a few years ago. Some young children aren’t considered “school ready”, even if they meet the age requirements, because they are not prepared to learn in a formal classroom setting.
The good news is that the skills that a child needs to succeed in a classroom or school setting can be learned quite early in life, and reinforced by parents and caregivers long before a child sets foot in a school or childcare facility.
According to the Urban Child Institute, there are four key dimensions of school readiness: language and literacy, thinking skills, self-control, and self-confidence. These skills help a child learn to read, evaluate and solve problems, and get along with other children well enough so that learning can take place. If a child doesn’t learn the proper social and emotional skills early in life, and if she is not taught basic literacy and numeracy awareness, she has a more difficult time catching up to her peers later in school.
Parents and caregivers can help their children prepare for school early on by reading, talking and singing to them every day. Frequent reading and verbal communication during infancy leads to an awareness of vocabulary, which helps build literacy skills that will be useful later in school. Additionally, parents can help foster curiosity and a desire to learn in their children by playing games like hide-and-seek and taking the time to answer questions.
A quality preschool setting can also be useful to young children by helping them become familiar with an environment where teachers and children interact regularly without the presence of parents. In fact, studies have shown that a quality preschool can actually improve a child’s chances of academic success. While choosing a quality preschool can be difficult, the resources listed below provide useful tips for finding the right childcare facility for your child and family.
- The top four dimensions of school readiness, from the Urban Child Institute.
- What your child can learn from preschool, from Parents Magazine.
- PBS.org offers tips to parents on how to choose a quality preschool or childcare facility.