1. Give board books to your baby. Talk about the pictures. Read simple rhyming stories aloud (helps develop phonemic awareness).
2. Get a library card. Read books to your toddler every day. Talk about the story (increases vocabulary). Some favorites:
- Are You My Mother?
- The King, the Mice, and the Cheese
- Go, Dog, Go
- The Best Nest
- Hop on Pop
3. Give your preschoolers games to play with that will help them develop mental and motor skills (not those noisy electronic games that do everything for them). Some suggestions:
- Matching pictures (teaches children to pay attention to details, differences).
- Matching shapes or colors or numbers.
- String large beads on a shoelace—only when your child is old enough to keep the beads out of her mouth (helps develop eye-hand co-ordination).
- Simple puzzles—wooden puzzles are more durable for younger children (teaches sequencing).
- Wood Blocks and/or Legos or Lego Duplos (for building, counting, adding, sorting, following directions, etc.).
- Fat crayons and blank paper (small motor development).
4. Play games with words and numbers (vocabulary development, listening and thinking skills, following directions).
- Example: “I’m thinking of something that is in the kitchen. You can eat it. It is red. It has sort of a round shape. It grows on a tree. It can fit in my hand. What is it? (An apple.) Give more clues if they can’t guess the object.
- Example: Give your child a few wood blocks (5 or 10) in a basket. Say: “Take two blocks out of the basket. Now, take out one more. Count them. How many blocks are outside of the basket? How many are left inside the basket?”
5. Give your child balls in various sizes. Roll a ball back and forth with your toddler. Play catch, or kick a ball back and forth with your preschooler (co-ordination, co-operation, sharing).
Read, talk, and play together often. You are developing your child’s vocabulary, phonemic awareness, listening skills, thinking skills, observation skills, small motor skills, and the ability to follow directions and co-operate with others. This is valuable training for when your child is ready to begin reading and writing in school.