When they’re babies, sing to them. When they’re older, sing with them!
There are pockets of time that are perfect for brief child-sized learning activities like rhymes and songs: when you’re doing their hair, driving, giving them a bath, waiting in line somewhere, etc.
Ever since my daughter was about three and a half, she started learning how to make up her own rhymes with one of my favorite kids’ songs “Down by The Bay.” And we still take turns singing it in the car to this day (the challenge is to come up with original rhymes after two and a half years).
This is the perfect song to help kids toward early literacy because you can help them out as much as you want at first; it never gets boring since each time the rhyme is new; it will even challenge YOU and your rhyming skills, if you don’t cheat and use the same rhymes over and over; and with time, your child will get better and better at recognizing rhyming words, parts of speech, and essentially composing her own rhymes!
Reciting, memorizing, and writing rhymes with your child
These rhyming activities (e.g., nursery rhymes) help with your child’s speech, listening, memory, and sound development. Though writing rhymes with your child may sound ambitious, it helps with parts of speech, sentence formation, rhyming composition, and let’s not forget self-esteem!
Below is the rhyme my daughter and I came up with together while driving. (She was five and in transitional kindergarten, to give you an idea of age-range for this activity.)
We had started with a regular kid’s rhyme; then I asked her if she wanted to make one up. So, we did! It was a hilarious experience. And when we got home and I wrote it down for her to see, she was proud to be a WRITER “like Mother Goose”!
Since then, she’s written three little books with my help and two on her own. That is to say, I definitely recommend all three parts of this tip: reciting, memorizing, and writing rhymes with your child.
UPDATE: By first grade, my daughter and I had our first children’s book published together, “Learn with Purple Penguin and Friends: Numbers, animals, colors”!
Keep reading to your kids!
If you love reading to them, they’ll love reading, too! Even if it’s just one book a day at bedtime. Of course more does more! For developmental specifics on the benefits of reading to children, please refer to my article “Tips to Boost Your Child’s Brain Development.”
Play verbal word games in those pockets of time.
Those gaps of time when you’re in line at the store, waiting in the doctor’s office, or driving your child to school are also great for any number of verbal word games.
- Words that start with the letter ___: You can let your child pick the letter, and the two of you (or more, if more family members are participating) can take turns listing as many words as you can that start with that letter; then move on to another letter when you run out of words or attention span.
- Word families: Rhyming simple words that belong in the same word family. For example, you can choose the word family “-at,” explain how it sounds, how it’s spelled and give a couple examples of words in this family (i.e., bat, cat…). Then turn it over to your child to go through the alphabet and list as many words as possible that rhyme with “-at” / belong to the “at” word family. Then you can move on to others. Enchanted Learning has an extensive list of word families in an easy, chart format.
- I-Spy: A classic game that helps children build their vocabulary using adjectives to describe what they see and hone their listening skills by identifying objects based on verbal descriptions. Not recommended when you’re driving, of course.
The above tips not only help promote early literacy, but they can also aid in your child’s listening, reasoning, speech, and writing abilities. And don’t forget to have fun with the activities! The time you get to spend with the littles plus the academic advancement each one affords them is a win-win situation!
-Elle C. Mayberry