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Literacy activities for your toddler

15 Early literacy activities to do at home

1. Walk through your house and have your child touch different things. Talk about whether they are soft, hard, cold, slippery, rough, prickly, etc. This activity helps build vocabulary.

2. Play the “Show Me How” game. Ask your child to do different things by saying, “Show me how you…” and then fill in the blank. Model the action for them as you ask. Think of silly instructions like, “Show me how you touch your nose to the couch.” This activity helps your child learn how to listen and follow directions.

3. Put masking tape on the floor in the shape of letters. Let your child crawl, walk, hop, or skip following the shapes.

4. After reading a book about colors, like Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert, go color shopping with your child. Get a basket or a bag and have your child go around the house looking for things of a certain color. Talk about the things she found. Then return the items to where they belong.

5. Keep a calendar in your child’s room and talk about what day it is and what is coming up in the future. This is a great time to talk about days of the week and months of the year.

6. Say three words to your toddler – two that rhyme and one that doesn’t. Ask your child to say what word doesn’t sound like the other two. Playing this game helps your toddler hear same and different sounds and prepares your child for reading success.

7. Make a job jar for your child. Instilling a sense of responsibility towards household chores is something that can be started at this age. You can make the job jar out of an empty coffee can or small box. Cut strips of paper and print a small job that needs to be done on each (wipe the refrigerator with a damp cloth, stack towels in the cupboard, pick up toys and put them in a basket).

8. Use this rhyme to help your child understand fast and slow. Try to do other movements slowly and quickly.

  • Slowly, slowly, slowly creeps the garden snail
  • Slowly, slowly, slowly up the garden rail.
  • Quickly, quickly, quickly runs the little mouse
  • Quickly, quickly, quickly round about the house.

9. Young children are a bundle of energy. A short ‘exercise class’ not only helps their large muscle development, it can be a sanity saver on long rainy days indoors. Encourage your child to follow your lead as you exercise together. Try touching toes, running in place, swinging your arms, and stretching to the ceiling. Exercise to music, pass a ball back and forth, or twirl a long ribbon in the air. For a change, let your child be the leader and you follow his example.

10. Many pop songs have catchy tunes and simple repetitious words and rhythms that will boost your toddlers memory and enhance her awareness of rhythm and rhyme.

11. Create large Stop and Go signs by cutting out large circles from green and red paper, using large white letters, and stapling the sign to a paint stir stick. During outdoor play time when the kids are moving around, regulate their movement with the signs. Reinforce that red means stop and green means go!

12. Darken the room and turn on a flashlight or pen light. Shine the light on different familiar objects and ask your toddler to name them. Turn the light off and on and have your toddler count the number of flashes. Draw shapes on the wall with the light and see if your toddler can recognize them.

13. Mealtimes provide a perfect opportunity to develop your toddler’s number concepts. Cut up your child’s food into bite-sized pieces. Say, “Oh look, it’s some banana. How many piece do you have? Let’s count!” You can also count the pieces as your toddler eats them. Start this game by offering only one, two, or three pieces each time. Gradually introduce more.

14. On three cards, draw simple weather pictures: bright yellow sun, dark grey clouds and raindrops, a snowman and snowflakes. Prepare three piles of clothing to match these weather conditions (either actual clothes or pictures): a bathing suit and sunglasses, an umbrella and boots, mittens hat and scarf. Show your child one of the weather pictures and discuss. Then ask her to choose the right clothes for that kind of weather. If you decided to get out actual clothing, help your child dress up in these items and act out appropriate weather related activities.

15. Research has shown that the repetition of words and phrases is one of the best ways to accelerate your child’s language development. It helps to reinforce the pathways in the brain that link sound with meaning. This activity is for bath time. Make your toddlers toys perform and encourage him to tell you what each one is doing. For example, “The fish is diving, diving, diving under your leg! What is the fish doing?” Continue with other objects, linking their actions with your child’s body parts. (the soap is washing, washing, washing your hands… the boat is zooming, zooming, zooming past your tummy… the frog is hopping, hopping, hopping on your back)

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