Did you know that learning to read begins before children even start school? From the time they are infants, children learn language and other important skills that will help them learn to read. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to read once they begin school.
Five of the best ways to help your child get ready to read and learn are: Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. That’s why we ask families to do these activities together as part of the library’s Summer Reading Program for children ages 0-5.
Here are some ideas for activities you can do with your child in each category:
READ: Make reading time with your child more interactive with these tips.
- Encourage your baby to love books by giving them board books that they can handle themselves and even chew on!
- Look at the cover of a book and predict/ask your child to predict what the book is about.
- Take a picture walk through a book before reading it, just to talk about the pictures, what you and your child think is happening, naming the objects in the pictures, etc.
- Read a wordless picture book, describing what you see and/or asking your child to tell their own story.
- As you read a story, ask your child to guess what happens next.
- While re-reading a favorite book, substitute silly words and help your child find the right word when they tell you it’s wrong.
- Follow the text with your finger as you read with your child.
- Give your child opportunities to hold and interact with books by turning the pages, lifting the flaps, or simply looking at the book on their own.
- Teach baby the names of body parts while gently tapping or tickling them.
- Name objects around your house with your child.
- List different types of things in a category (e.g., SHOES – sandals, sneakers, slippers, boots, etc.)
- Point out and name objects in a book – colors, numbers, shapes, animals, etc.
- Ask your child to tell you what they did today.
- Point to a picture of an animal, name it, and ask your child what sound the animal makes.
- Ask your child to retell a favorite story or a story you just read together.
- Help your child make up a story!
- Try to come up with as many words as you can that start with the same sound or letter.
- Talk to your child about what you are doing while doing chores around the house.
- While your child plays with their toys, talk to them about the names of objects, their colors, their shapes, count them, etc.
- Recite nursery rhymes or fingerplays. Ask your librarian for suggestions.
- If your child is drawing a picture, ask them to tell you about it.
- Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Repeat what your child says and use new words. For example, “You want a banana? That’s a very healthy choice.” Or, “Yes, we did see a truck like that last week. It’s called a bulldozer.”
- Sing the alphabet song to learn about letters.
- Sing nursery rhymes, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Do the hand motions together to help your child develop fine motor skills.
- Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children learn to hear the syllables in words.
- Sing spelling songs like B-I-N-G-O. Make up your own spelling songs with this tune!
- Give your child an upside-down cooking pot or empty butter bowl and a wooden spoon to use as a drum.
- Make your own musical instruments out of recycled or household materials.
- Play children’s music or your favorite upbeat music and have a dance party with your child. Add shakers or scarves for extra fun!
- Learn a new song to sing with your child by asking your librarian or watching videos at youtube.com/jbrary.
- Sing a lullaby before bed or a happy wake-up song in the morning.
- Sing a song like “This Is the Way We Wash” during bath time or a song like “Clean Up, Clean Up,” while picking up toys.
- Make up silly songs to sing when you’re going about your daily activities.
- Sing a picture book to a familiar tune, like “Twinkle, Twinkle,” or make up your own!
- Insert your child’s name and/or other family members’ names into songs and rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Jack Be Nimble.”
- Add food coloring to Greek yogurt and let your baby finger-paint on their highchair tray.
- Give baby a piece of construction paper, a clean paintbrush, and some water so they can “paint” with water.
- Give your child paper and crayons to scribble or color – this is the beginning of writing!
- Give your child a piece of paper with dotted lines on it for them to trace.
- As your child learns to write letters, teach them how to write the letters in their name.
- Ask your child to write their name on any pictures they draw or color.
- Talk to your child about what they are drawing and write captions or stories together.
- Write down stories that your child makes up.
- Write down a grocery list together. Let your child cross off items as you shop.
- Help your child write notes for siblings or other family members and leave them somewhere as a surprise.
- Let your child practice writing letters with their finger or a cotton swab in fun materials, like sand, shaving cream, or pudding!
- Write or color with chalk on the sidewalk.
- Add a few drops of food coloring to a squeeze bottle with water and let your child write/draw on the sidewalk.
- Give your child plenty of unstructured playtime where they can use their imaginations and experiment with what they’re learning.
- Encourage dramatic play by using dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, and other props around your home.
- Act out stories you’ve read together.
- Encourage your child to pretend to read a book to you.
- Write big letters on pieces of paper and have your child “swat” the letters you call out with a fly swatter.
- Play “Bike Ride” with baby lying down on their back – gently grasp their ankles and move their legs in a cycling motion while you talk with them. This helps strengthen their leg and abdomen muscles!
- Play rhyming games. You say a word and ask your child to say another word that rhymes.
- Pretend to be various animals, mimicking their movements and the sounds they make.
- Let your child help you in the kitchen with simple tasks like mixing/stirring.
- Introduce baby to new textures by laying them down on different material blankets, towels, clothing, even the grass!
- Let your child play in the dirt while you do yard work.
- Blow bubbles and encourage your child to chase and catch them. Babies love bubbles too!
- Toss bean bags back and forth.
- Roll a ball back and forth.
- Play with a shape sorter.
- Tie or tape some ribbons or other interesting streamers on a wooden spoon and dangle them gently over and in front of a young baby’s face. Move it to either side of baby’s head to encourage turning.
- Play with puzzles. You could even make your own simple puzzles with just a few big pieces.
- Help your child hang and swing on monkey bars.
- Let your child help you sweep or rake.
- Play with play-dough. Your child can even help you make your own with just flour, salt, and water! Here’s one simple recipe to try.
- Encourage your child to help you sort dirty clothes into piles of different colors.
- Let your child ball up paper that needs to be recycled and then toss it into the bin.
- Give your child age-appropriate items to sort by size or color (e.g., craft pom poms, buttons, lids, pipe cleaners, etc.)
- Let your child use safety scissors to cut up paper. You can even make or print scissor sheets with dotted lines to follow.
- Give your child magnetic letters to play with on the refrigerator or a cookie sheet or foam letters to play with in the bathtub.
- (For more great, age-specific ways to play with your baby, check out this article at babycenter.com: “Let’s Play! Weekly activities for your baby’s first year”)
*Note: For parents of very young babies, if you run out of activities in other categories, you can always supplement with more reading time to complete the Summer Reading Program. Babies love books!