Literacy skills start long before a child learns the ABCs. From day one, children are developing communication skills that will allow them to both comprehend and convey words and ideas. Babies’ first interactions form important language building blocks as they begin to point at objects or follow your gaze to determine what is important. As they grow, children learn to use the tools of language to communicate ideas in increasingly clear and powerful ways.
You can promote communication skills early on by helping children make connections between what they hear and what they see. When you point to illustrations in a book or touch on words as you read them aloud, you are helping your child recognize that pictures convey ideas and those marks on the page represent a particular spoken word or phrase. Playing rhyming games and singing songs highlights the sounds of language, and children eventually learn to map those sounds to letters. By providing a home that is full of print, using new and interesting words for familiar concepts, telling stories and reading books that spark conversation, you can contribute to your child’s ability to communicate in the world.
Try these pretend play activities to build your child’s communication skills:
- Have a good old-fashioned tea party. Get out the plastic teapot, cups and saucers and encourage your child to dress up for a tea party attended by friends or favorite stuffed animals. Help your child practice greeting the guests, inviting them to sit at the table, giving a “toast” and facilitating the conversation. Remind your child to demonstrate positive table manners by saying please, thank you, passing politely, and engaging in the discussion.
- Give a speech. Have your child dress up as a school principal, a town mayor, or a favorite princess and give a speech to promote a favorite cause like treating animals kindly or keeping parks litter-free. Help your child identify two or three main points and use a table or box as a make-shift podium to create an official air.
- Play telephone. When you and your child play dress-up, grab a pretend phone and “call” your child. Ask open-ended questions that require your child to really consider the dress-up character’s point of view and likely response. Be sure to ham up the fun using different voices and gestures.