In today’s society, children are expected to know more and more at younger and younger ages. Now, I am not here to debate whether this is right or wrong (it’s about 50/50 in my mind) but rather to explain to you how to teach early literacy skills to your kids.
Now don’t worry! This isn’t some sort of hardcore program that you need to drill your kids on. No, no, no! It is, rather, some basic guidelines of things that you should try to keep in mind when you are with your kids to give them every opportunity to learn everything that they need to know in order to be successful in their educational career as they grow.
It is honestly never too early to start teaching your children the alphabet. However, don’t fall into the trap that a lot of parents get stuck on and focus on the ABC’s song. Not to say that this song isn’t a good idea, but it is too much of an abstract concept for little kids. To put it simply, just because a kid can sing the alphabet song, doesn’t mean that they know the alphabet.
It is best, instead, to focus on teaching the actual letters to your child. You can do this in a ton of ways, which are listed below. Always be sure to say the sounds that the letters say as well. These sounds, are actually more important than the names themselves since your kid will need to know them when they start to read.
Saying Them – Seems obvious, right? You would think so, but most kids don’t really hear the letter names and letter sounds too much in their daily life. My wife and I would turn it into a chant that we would say when our kids were infants.
We would use it to calm them down when they were upset or when we were changing their diapers. They liked the repetition of it, and it was both soothing and educational at the same time.
Basically, we would go “This is the letter A, A say aaaaaaa, this is the letter B, B says beh…” and so on. As silly as it sounds, using this quick little chant helped our kids to both learn their letters and letter sounds by the time they were two.
Alphabet Magnets – Now wait you say! You said not just to do abstract things! You’re right, I did. That’s why we also used different ways to introduce the actual letters to our kids. We have a large magnetic board in our kitchen, but any magnetic surface would work for this. We then got some of those cheap magnetic letters and let our kids play with them on the board.
We would have them go and get a letter and then tell them what it was and what it said. After a while, we could ask them to go and get a letter for us by telling them the name or the sound.
Just make sure that you don’t make it into a chore for them. When they don’t want to play anymore, don’t make them. It is much better to try and teach these concepts while they are engaged. The last thing you want to do is make it seem like work.
Sandpaper – Once your kid has a solid idea of what the letters look like, you can begin working with them on forming the letters. You can write or print the letters on a piece of paper one at a time.
Then, give your child some sandpaper (make sure it is fine) and have them trace the letter. This tactile activity will help to show them how to form the letters correctly when they are ready to write.
Shaving Cream – If you are looking for a softer way to get a similar result to the sandpaper, you can complete the same activity, but with shaving cream. Not only will it help your kid to form the letters correctly, but it will make your house smell wonderful too!
Take The Time To Talk
One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen parents make with their kids is to talk down to them. What I mean is, that the only way that some parents talk to their kids is in cutesy terms, kind of like baby talk.
While this type of speech certainly has its place every once in a while, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk to your kids like you would any other person, since, you know, they are people!
You’ll be amazed at how much information your kids can pick up from just simply talking to them. When you are out and about, whether it is grocery shopping or running other errands, take the time and talk to your kids about what you see.
You can use this opportunity to discuss letters, words, numbers, shapes, colors, or any other topic that might come up. This is another great way to teach your kids without drilling the information into their little noggins.
Once your child has a good grasp on the alphabet and the sounds the letters make, you can try making some simple word cards for them to try and read. Believe me; they will feel like such a big kid if they can read any words at all. While I am not big on drilling anything with itty bitties, as long as they enjoy it, you can certainly have at it.
Once your little has a grasp on a couple of words, you can reinforce them without the cards by pointing them out when you are running errands or reading books. Before you know it, your kid will take over the lead on this and start looking for the words on their own.
Books, Books, Books
Just like the alphabet, you don’t need to wait till your kids are older to start reading with them. My wife and I actually started reading to our kids while they were still in the womb.
Studies have shown that even though a baby is still in the womb, they will react to the books that they heard in there differently when they hear them again in comparison to brand new books.
By listening to stories, a young child can start to learn their letter sounds and some words, which are essential pre-reading skills. Of course, getting kids to love books is even more important than having them reading them.
It doesn’t matter how young a child is, even an eight-month-old will love to listen to books. The earlier you can hook a child onto reading, the better it will be for them in the long run.
Besides teaching children sounds and words, books also teach more basic fundamentals like how stories and words follow a left to right progression, which, while really basic, is a hugely important concept that kids need to understand to read later on.
Books are also a great way to work on your child’s listening skills. After you read a book, take the time and ask a couple of questions about it. If they aren’t sure of the answer, help them find it within the text.
Reading comprehension is a big focus in schools nowadays, and it will be hugely beneficial to your kid if they practice it while they are young.
Once your child is around two or three, you can start talking to them about how to draw pictures. Drawing is an essential skill for little kids, especially in the primary grades, where their teachers will use pictures and illustrations as a springboard for writing.
We always started out with something simple, which was how to draw people. Left to their own devices, most preschoolers will draw their people without multiple body parts! Take the time to help them remember all of the little details like hands and arms, legs and eyes now, and you’ll be surprised at how detailed their independent drawings are later on.
Writing stories or words should be saved for when a kid is 4 or 5 years old, about when they would be starting preschool or kindergarten. If you attempt it any earlier, their fine motor control (use of their hands) won’t be strong enough to handle too much work.
If you want to get your little to write, first have them draw a picture of their story. Then help them to formulate one sentence for their picture. Finally, help them to write their story by sounding out the words they want to write.
Even if they don’t spell the words perfectly, you can rest assured that their little brains are working hard to gain the skills they need to be successful in school.
What A Bunch Of Smarties!
Now, of course, don’t feel like you need to do all of these things every single day! As I said, these are just ideas to keep in mind. Even if you only get to do them every once in a while, it will be a huge bonus for your kids.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know in the comments section below! Have a great day!