One of the most powerful activities that you can do at home to help develop your child’s kindergarten readiness is to read books and share stories. How about a Reading Olympics? Each day set aside a few minutes to either read to your child or tell a story. To earn a gold medal, read 3 times every day. A silver medal is two books or stories and a bronze would be one book a day.
To make a medal, a juice can lid is just about the right size. Trace around it on some paper and let your child use paint or crayons to color it. Sometimes grownup hands need to help with the cutting. You can decide if there’s a medal for each day that you read, or just one for the week.
Reading encourages all kinds of brain connections for using language and thinking. Children who have been read to at home will have an astonishing total of about 5000 books by the time they start school. That sounds impossible but 3 books a day is more than one thousand in a year. Just think of how those few minutes a day can add up to a tremendous amount of brain stimulation for a child. Can you and your child have some gold-medal fun and learning?
Reading and sharing books with kids is a powerful kindergarten readiness activity. Did you know that kids who have been read to at home have a “brain-bank account” of about 5,000 books by the time they enter school? Just picture how much that will help in learning to read. These kids already know:
- how a book works. There’s a front, back and middle.
- what books do. Books tell us stories and explain things.
- pictures match the story and information.
- story structure. Usually stories have a beginning, middle and end. Sometimes there is a problem that gets fixed.
- letters and squiggle marks tell us the story. Books have talking that’s written down.
Since these posts are about rocks, I’ve been looking for some titles to suggest. I can hardly wait to check out this one at the library and share it with some eager little ones: If Rocks Could Sing, a discovered alphabet, by Leslie McGuirk. This is an alphabet book, but each letter is a real rock and so are all the objects. It took the author over 10 years to find and collect all the rocks! For b there is a b-shaped rock and one that looks like a bird, and so it goes for every letter. This sounds like a fun book to read and families can start their own stories with rocks that they find anywhere.
Reading and sharing books and stories for a few minutes a day, a few times a week is all it takes. Kids who do not have exposure to books and stories are almost at rock bottom in comparison. Or to put in another way, think of Olympic athletes and how much training they need to do to be at the top. Sharing stories and books with your kids is like training for learning to read. The brain is a ‘muscle’ and it needs exercise, too. In the spirit of the Olympics, do you and your child have some time to read together today? What books and stories for learning and fun can you share?
Rock talk is lots of fun and can help kids with kindergarten readiness. In case you hadn’t guessed rock talk is words and rhyming. Being able to rhyme words is a skill that develops about the age of 4, but in the meantime kids need to hear many, many words and be exposed to rhymes.
What’s so special about words and rhymes? Words are made of bits of sounds; for instance, the word rock as an ‘rrr’ sound at the start, an ‘aw’ sound in the middle and a ‘kkk’ sound at the end. The word rock can be divided up into these sound bits and then recombined to make new words such as sock, talk, lock, stock, or walk. Bone, cone or moan rhyme with stone. This ability to hear the sound pieces that make up words (called phonological awareness) is critical to later learning how to read. Different languages will have other words to rhyme with rock or stone.
If words were rocks, build mind-mountains.
This week, there has been news coverage about the lawsuit against the company Your Baby Can Read and it’s products. Parents and caregivers can help young children by reading books, telling stories, singing songs, and sharing conversations. Hearing and using language encourages brain connections that are needed for the reading process.
How many words do kids need to hear? Would you believe millions and millions? A study by Hart and Risley found that some children hear more than 40 million words before they start school!! Now, if words were rocks and stones that would be mountains! When it comes to kindergarten readiness, talk rocks. Today, can you build some mind mountains for your child by using lots and lots and lots of words?
Does kindergarten readiness rock for you? I love the play on words and what could be more fun than rocks? Did you know that word play also helps children with a basic skill for later learning to read?
Before children can tackle words on a page, they need to learn that words are made of bits of sounds. For instance, rock has the rrrr sound, the awh and the kh. Children’s brains will figure this out provided they get lots of word stimulation by sharing books and stories, listening to others, talking, singing, and playing with language themselves. This skill takes time to develop but parents and caregivers can help kids by using lots of words whenever they can and by playing with them.
The sound that words make at the start is one way to play with words. Although kids may not have developed the rrrr sound when they talk, they can hear it. When talking about rocks, you can say “Rocks kind of goes rrrrr. RRRRRocks. I think red starts rrrrr, too. Do you hear that rrrr rocks, rrrr red?” Then you can name some other things that start rrr: roll, river, rose, read, ring. What else can you think of? If you are inside, you may want to suggest that the two of you have a rrrr race to pick up the toys. Or, you might need to rrrr run to catch the bus. Who can do the biggest rrrr roar?
Your child may or may not be able to think of some things that go rrrr but you have add a few more stepping stones to the brain path that leads to understanding about words. Does this activity rrrr resonate for you?
July means summer and holidays and holidays are an ideal time for some kindergarten readiness learning and fun. Helping your child develop kindergarten readiness can happen anytime. These early childhood years are peak sensitivity for all kinds of brain connections. Early development from 0 to 6 years is crucial for later learning.
No matter what the age of your child or the unique strengths and weaknesses you can give your child a rock-solid foundation for later learning by talking. Much learning happens in the context of language; the brain needs to hear lots of language to learn. This is something that can easily fit into regular and vacation days. Plus, it doesn’t take up any room in the car!
A study counted the number of words that children heard before they started school. Turns out it adds up to millions of words, at least 10-15 million! But for children in families that talked and chatted, with conversations like: “Oh, look at that big truck. That’s a moving truck. A family put all their chairs and tables and beds in the truck to take to a new place,” or “Look at that big puddle on the driveway. It rained so hard in the night I thought maybe we’d wake up this morning and see puddles made of rocks,” talking was much more. All this added up, over just 4 years, to a staggering 40 million words. Now that’s a rock solid foundation of language.
As your family works and plays this month, talk about where you are going, what you are doing, the things your child sees and hears, etc. Sing songs, tell stories, just use lots of language. Each word is a rock. Can you build a mountain of word learning for your child?
Once upon a kindergarten readiness time…Instead of reading books do you and your child sometimes make up your own stories? Did you know that making up stories with your child is a super learning activity as well as lots of fun? Since these posts are about bugs, how about a bug story? Once upon a time there was a little bug who lived in a house in the forest…
As adults, we take the basic structure of a story for granted but children are only beginning to understand that stories have a beginning, middle and end sequence. Some of them have dialogue. Stories are usually built around one event or idea. When you tell your child a story you will use this same structure even if you are not aware of doing so. As with so many things, kids need to experience this same pattern over and over before it gets recorded into their thinking strategies.
Telling stories instead of reading them gives kids a chance to make the pictures in their own heads instead of putting the book’s pictures in their minds. This is called visualizing. Creating pictures also exercises their imaginations, plus they link words and images using context and language. You model for your little one how to think on one’s feet and build on resources that are immediately available.
These are just a few of the ways that telling stories promotes development and kindergarten readiness. As parent or caregiver you have extensive knowledge of what interests your child. You can start with a level and things that are familiar and expand them. For extra enrichment, your child can draw a story and you print the story line. That way you have a unique book to enjoy over and over. Is telling stories doable for you?
Q. What was the Spider doing on the computer? A. Searching the web. Maybe the spider was looking for some kindergarten readiness fun and bug learning activities! Just in case you can’t recognize the picture, it is a spider puppet made from 2 circles of fabric with 8 legs cut from bag handles and 2 button eyes.
A more important question is what can kids learn when they are playing with puppets?
- Puppets encourage lots of conversation. Children practice taking turns as they speak. then the puppet does. Kids learn how to ask questions and give answers.
- Children need to put themselves in the place of the puppet. This is trying out how something looks from someone else’s point of view, a very important social skill.
- There’s lots of pretending, imagining and interacting.
- The puppet can also encourage different ways to move and use space.
No matter what you use to create a puppet: old socks, bags, stuffies, etc. or if your child has some already, you can extend your child’s play by asking about the puppet: What is its name? Does it have a friend? What does it like to do, eat, etc? Model for your child some different voices, low, high, fast, sleepy, and more. You and your child may want to take turns being the voice of the puppet. Make 2 and have conversations with them or 1 or 2 kids can be both puppets. Is the puppet having an adventure? How about you and your little one?
Books and bugs may be part of both kindergarten readiness and breakfast. For a change, instead of a bed-time story how about a wake up book? It’s hard to read about food when tummies are hungry for breakfast, especially if you are The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but what can be better than a snuggle in bed with a book?
Did you know The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, was first published in 1969? That’s a lot of years and several generations that have loved this book. The story entertains as it teaches: numbers and counting, sequencing, colors, stretching memory as we try and remember what the caterpillar has already eaten, word order and other language strategies, predicting, following along with the story, careful listening, and more.
After reading, you can make up your own story: The Very Hungry Family. Kids will enjoy suggesting some things for the family to eat for each day of the week. This story is kindergarten readiness brain food. Now that everyone is really hungry, what’s to eat?
Did you know that asking children about words that rhyme is often included on kindergarten readiness evaluations? Not all kids will be able to rhyme words before they start kindergarten and this tells teachers which ones will need more activities with words and sounds.
Why is rhyming words so important? Children need to be able to hear the bits of sounds that make up words. These sound pieces can them be recombined to make different words. (This is called phonological awareness.) For instance, the ‘at” in cat is one sound piece that is in mat, hat, and rat. Or the ‘ug’ in bug can be in mug, run, tug, and dug.
Kids need exposure to lots of words before they develop this ability to divide words into their sound parts. One way we can tell when their brains have made the connections for this is when they can say words that rhyme. Kids will figure this out all their own as long as we give them plenty of language stimulation. This can be with songs, stories, books, and talking together as much as possible. As you zip up a coat or button a sweater, you can tell your child that now he is as snug as a bug in a rug. Or ask your bug if she would like her juice in a mug.
Many children’s books have words that rhyme. This book by Bob Barner has wonderful pictures of all kinds of bugs as well as simple rhyming text. Can you turn your Monday into fun-day with some bugs and hugs?
Kindergarten readiness can be tricky to evaluate but it’s easy to pick out kids who are word-smart. These are the ones that have an unusual vocabulary, lots of words and enjoy talking to practically anybody. Some of this is due to their own personalities and talents but ALL children benefit by language stimulation. Hold onto your socks because the following will knock them off. Apparently, kids who have been exposed to a rich language environment at home have built a bank of about 45 million words in their brains before they go to school. For kids with only minimal language it’s about 30 million less! (30 Million Word Gap)
Now, think of words as pennies. Each word your child hears is a penny going ka-ching in your child’s brain bank. You can make your child very rich in words. Hear (sorry, just couldn’t resist the play on words)…here are some ways to enrich your child’s language account and make your child word smart:
- Read books. Think of a book as a language bath and give your child a good soak in words.
- Tell stories. Any favorite family stories? My kids love to tell about the rushed morning when I filled the dishwasher soap dispenser with dry cat food. Or just make one up…”One day, Daddy wore the Dora boots to work because he couldn’t find his shoes and….” Or, “One day, Mommy took a school bus home instead of the city bus and….”
- Use different voices to say the same thing. Robot voice — please. hang. this. up. Use a squeaky Elmo voice, a shaky voice, an opera voice. (Don’t forget the whiny voice that sounds just like your child.) And a slurpy voice — pleasssse hang thisssss up.
- Sing songs. Play word games. Make up silly words. Hat, cat, rat, Zat, now what is a zat? Is it like a wat or a dat?
- Have a conversation on the banana phone or the shoe phone. Ask the cookies in the oven if they are ready yet and then answer yourself.
Yes, some of this is quirky but do you want a smarter child? When it comes to the language part of multiple intelligences and kindergarten readiness, can you make your child a word-bank millionaire, a word-smart kid?