Easy Ways to Develop Literacy Skills in Toddlers and Preschoolers

Recently, I did something I almost never, ever do. I walked through the toy department of Target. I didn’t have either of my children with me, as I don’t have the fortitude to walk through a toy department of any kind with a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old. Aside from the predictable board games, dolls, action figures and blocks, I was shocked to find a whole aisle devoted to the “teaching toys”…and even more shocked when I looked below at the price tags!

To me, the phrase “teaching toy” is misused by the department stores. In my real-life experience and from what I’ve read, the toys that are usually marketed as teaching toys are the toys least likely to teach your child anything. If I called the shots in the world of toy marketing, cardboard boxes, scrap papers, glue, sticks, rocks, and paints would be on the shelf labeled “teaching toys”.

Truthfully, the best ways to support early literacy skills and develop them further are probably all easily accomplished without spending a dime. Save tons of money and raise a reader? Sounds like the best system out there! 🙂

Here are some EASY ideas you can use every day in the car, at dinner, in the grocery store, on the bus…wherever…to help your toddler or preschooler develop into a reader!

  • Read aloud to your child every day. As he gets older, point to the words on the page as you do so. This helps your child develop the idea that words on the page remain constant, and that a word is a symbol for something real…big concepts!
  • PLAY with your child using language…think of funny rhymes and make your child laugh. “Put on your hat, you silly bat!” “Do you want some juice, my little moose?” “Pick out a book and take a look!”
  • Let your child scribble on paper and read it back to you if he’s not writing letters and words yet. If he is, let him write strings of seemingly nonsensical letters or words. Offer to write a “grown up translation” on the back or on a sticky note. Show him his words mean something, even if they aren’t conventional spellings yet. Let him watch you form the letters as you translate. “So this part says, ‘Daddy, I would like a green popsicle after dinner please’, right?”
  • Ask him to help you with writing tasks, even if he isn’t really “writing” yet. “Oh! I forgot to put milk on the grocery list. Would you please take the pen and write ‘milk’ on that list?”
  • Let your child see you reading in many scenarios and call attention to the fact that you are. “Thank goodness there’s a sign that says ‘Pick up here’ so I know where to wait for my order!” “Ohhhh, look! This ad says there’s a sale on ice cream this week at the grocery store!” “Which recipe book should I look in to find a cookie recipe? Hmmmm….lets look at the covers for a clue…”
  • Praise his efforts to “read and write” even if he’s only “reading” from memory and scribbling. “Wow! You really know this story! Thank you for reading that to me!” “Wow! That’s a lot of writing! Can you read what it says to me?”
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