As families around the country shelter in place, parents of preschoolers can help build their child’s speech and language skills during everyday activities at home.
Strong speech and language skills are key to kindergarten readiness and a precursor for reading, writing, and social success. Below are some key communication skills for children ages 3–5, and suggestions for how parents can help their preschoolers:
Teach or reinforce ways to follow directions throughout the day. Get your child’s attention, make sure they are looking at you, and go over the steps you take when getting dressed, washing hands, brushing teeth, or cleaning up toys. You can even create a picture or sign with the list of steps for common daily tasks. Some easy at-home practice opportunities include the following:
Young children love music. Singing nursery rhyme songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Wheels on the Bus teaches them about different sounds and words. Singing songs and hearing rhymes will help children learn to read.
The more words a child is exposed to, the more words they’ll know! Keep the conversation going all day long, regardless of your activity. Some great vocabulary-building opportunities include the following:
Set the stage for a story by naming a place, character(s), and activity. Encourage your child to create a story from those details and to make up adventures for each character. The funnier or wilder, the better.
You can also pick a familiar book and have them describe how the characters feel. Magazines and newspapers are also great for this purpose. Make up a story about a picture and describe what happens. Role-play the stories by pretending to be the characters.
Help children to express their own feelings and to talk about how others might be feeling. Some ideas include the following:
Sequencing is breaking down something (e.g., a task or story) into steps or parts—and then putting them in a logical order. Ask your child to select a favorite book. Read it together, and then talk about it. What came first? Next? Last? Have them draw a picture to show you. As you read, you can also ask them what they think will happen next—or what they think the story is about before you read by looking at the cover (this is called prediction).
Children use many tactics to get their way. Although these tactics may include crying or whining, you can help them learn to persuade with their words. Have them draw a picture of their favorite book and tell you about it—are they able to convince you to read it? Or if they want to watch a TV show or movie, ask them to persuade you—to give you good reasons why they should get to watch the show.
Schedule a call (or video chat, if you can) between your child and their grandparent, other family members, or a friend to talk about their daily activities or a book they’ve read. Can your child talk briefly about the highlights of the day or the main events in a book?