Babies and young children seem to soak up information – they are constantly observing, imitating, exploring, and learning. Research shows that 90% of children’s critical brain development occurs by age 5 – and that makes sense when you think about everything your little one will learn and what they’ll achieve in just a few short years!
Exposing children to language during these early years can help boost their brain development, create a solid foundation for reading, comprehension and language development, help form important connections, support creativity – and much more!
Benefits of Helping Children Develop Early Literacy Skills
Early literacy skills help children build the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful readers. So while building early literacy skills includes spending time reading together, it also includes building vocabulary skills, comprehension skills, self-expression, and more! As children learn, they are also building confidence and skills that that will help them be successful in school and later in life.
- Listening & Comprehension Skills: Reading and working on early literacy skills together can be great tools to help your child build listening and comprehension skills (even if it seems like they may not be listening all that well!). As you read or work on other activities together, try to keep activities short and interactive, give children chances to talk and ask questions, and ask questions of them along the way!
- Language Development & Expanded Vocabulary: Children acquire language skills through interaction, and during their first three years of life, children learn thousands of words, rules of grammar and social conventions that exist around language and communication in their community. The more that you talk and have conversations with your children, spend time reading together, and taking part in activities like storytelling and sharing songs and rhymes, the more vocabulary and language skills your child will learn! Looking for activities to help build your child’s vocabulary? Check out ideas from Port Discovery’s educators.
- Creativity & Learning About the World Around Them: Books, stories, songs and literacy activities can help open up whole new worlds to your children. They can help children learn about things like animals and nature, what school might be like, about other children and families – and more. You can also use reading and early literacy skills to spark children’s imagination through fantasy books, through imaginative pictures and illustrations, and by acting out (or creating your own!) stories.
- Social & Emotional Development: Early literacy activities can also aid in children’s social and emotional development, as they learn to understand what others are doing and saying, to communicate needs, feelings, and ideas. In addition, caregivers can use early literacy activities such as music and songs, stories, puppet shows and more to help children prepare for things like school, new experiences, and to express and cope with what they might be feeling.
Playful Ways to Build Early Literacy Skills
- Play! No surprise that PLAY tops our list of ideas – because it is a great way for children to build language and communication skills, learn how to express themselves, make connections, and understand the world around them. From playing word and language games (like sight words bingo, rhyming games, and letter scavenger hunt) to using dramatic play to act out – and create your own -stories), there are many ways to use play to help children learn literacy skills in fun, engaging ways.
- Read together! Reading together helps children build all of the skills we’ve talked about thus far – and also provides a great opportunity for your child and you to connect. As you look for things to read together, try selecting books that help your child understand other families, communities, and people – and also try out books that use fantasy elements to spark imagination. Here are 25 ideas for making reading fun that kids will love!
- Sing and Explore Music! Many children – including infants and toddlers – enjoy music, movement, and song. Music can be used to soothe, to entertain – and also to help children learn new words, to hear and use new patterns of speech, and to remember. Try singing songs together – and encourage your little one to join in and make up their own lyrics and silly rhymes. Try using songs during routines like getting ready in the morning, during mealtimes, and at bedtime. And, try playing different songs and music. You’ll likely find that your little learner will begin picking up new words and connections!
- Try Drawing & Writing! For developing readers and writers, drawing pictures gives children opportunities to create objects they see, express themselves, and use their imaginations – even before they may be able to say or write the right words for them. Encourage your child to scribble, to draw, and to create – and then ask them questions and encourage them to talk about what they’ve created. As your child develops their writing skills, encourage them to write about their picture. Find some other drawing and writing activity ideas here!
Exposing children to early literacy skills, reading, and language early in life will help children throughout life. Not only does it help them become strong readers, but early literacy skills help children be more prepared for school – and develop other important skills that will help them in many different ways. Looking for more ideas or tips on early literacy for young learners? Check out our Early Literacy Play Tip articles for more helpful advice and ideas.