Preschool education is a crucial piece of our children’s foundation of learning. With our fast paced lives, children are expected to understand and know things much earlier in life than we once did. We have learned how valuable reading to our children is from birth, and that instilling a desire for learning is even more important.
At a year old, most children have developed to a point where they will recognize and can point out pictures associated with the words we speak. If we say “bird” they can typically find a feathered friend in a brightly colored picture book page.
By two years of age, they’re still working on motor functions, but we give them crayons to express their creativity and to practice drawing what they visualize. At this age they may start to sing along with you as you chant the alphabet song, or spout out numbers with you as you count to twenty.
The first step in teaching a child to read is learning the sounds of the alphabet and how to associate those sounds with specific letters. An easy word to start with is your child’s name as they know what it is associated with and it’s very easy for them to quickly recognize.
Once children hit four years old, many of them are ready to learn some of the more simple words, commonly called “sight words”. These are the common words children will see in the text of books, magazines, and even on television, that are not as easily sounded out. Instead, we use memorization to learn and recognize these words.
An easy technique for starting this project is to build a “word wall” for your child. Using large, clear print, write up to five new sight words per week on separate pieces of paper and put them on a wall in your child’s bedroom or toy room.
Once you’ve chosen your words for the week, spend time helping your child say and recognize these words. You can take turns saying sentences using the words, helping your child spell them out loud, or just saying them over and over again.
As you add new words to your wall each week, it’s important to continue using the words from previous weeks, so your child maintains them in his or her vocabulary database.
As with any other activity, children quickly bore of working on their alphabet and words if it isn’t very fun. Use fun activities to help keep your child’s focus and set appropriate timeframes each day for working on them. No four year old is going to be able to focus on learning words for several hours, but half an hour a day might be a great starting point.
Use games to help encourage the desire and drive to learn:
- Sight word bingo: Start with a blank grid with 16 spaces; let your child pick different sight words to put in each space and then play BINGO with his words. The first person to cover a direct line of words correctly wins!
- Air drawings: Let your child use his “finger pointer” to write sight and simple words in the air. Others take turns guessing what word is being written and the person who guesses correctly first, gets to write the next word using his or her “finger pointer” .
- Technology: There are so many amazing software, television and electronic game programs out to help children with learning words that it’s hard to choose which will work best. Pick games that are bright, easy to use for your child’s developmental state and will help them advance their learning potential.