Introduction: These are called pre-literacy activities, because realistically, you aren't going to be teaching your baby or toddler to read. However, helping them build their vocabulary and getting them exposed to and interested in letters and written materials will help them be prepared when it is time to learn how to read. Most of the ideas on this list are for toddlers and preschoolers, but some you can also do with your baby.
- Talk with your child about your day. One of the best ways to help your child develop language is simply by speaking with them!
- Listen to and dance to music with your child. We like to listen to free kid's music stations at Pandora.com (they also have aps for your mobile device), or borrow CDs from the library. My daughter's favorite Pandora stations are the Disney channel and the First 5 CA channel.
- Visit the library and let your child pick out which books to bring home.
- Attend library events, such as story time.
- Describe the items and talk about the colors you see at the grocery store.
- Talk about the weather with your child.
- Sing nursery rhymes and finger plays (such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider").
- Sing the alphabet song.
- Look at a family photo album and name the people in the photos.
- Act like an animal! Walk like a duck, jump like a frog, walk on all four like a doggie, meow like a cat, etc.
- Put your child's name on the wall in his/her room and talk about the letters in the name.
- Talk about signs you see.
- Collect leaves with your child, and then sort them by size and color.
- Ask your child many questions through out their day to keep them engaged.
- At bath time, talk about what sinks and what floats.
- At bath time, as them to point to various body parts. Or, as they get older, ask them, "Where is ______?" You could also have them point to body parts on you. Or, in our case, a very patient pet dog!
- Categorize and label their toy containers with both word and pictures. This will help them associate written words with tangible items. As an added bonus, this will also help keep your home more organized!
Final Thoughts: Interacting with your child is one of the best ways to help develop their language skills! Even if they aren't old enough be talking yet, you can read to them, talk with them, and sing songs with them everyday. Research shows that the more words a baby or child hears, the more words they will learn, which will help them be more prepared to do well in school as they get older.