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Reading Toddler kid
Aug 14, 2018

Fun Ways to help Toddlers and Preschoolers Prepare for Kindergarten

By Kathryn Leslie

Reading Toddler kid

Today’s kindergarten students do a lot more than finger painting and letter tracing. Many parents feel pressured to have their child prepared for kindergarten, combined with the anxiety of sending them to “big kid” school.

Here are some simple steps to help toddlers and preschoolers get ready for kindergarten – and maybe even learn to read!

Bedtime books

Reading aloud stories at bedtime helps your child become a better reader. Encourage predictions: “Oh no! What a mess! This is a big problem.” Or “What will happen next?” Discuss characters and setting: “I wonder where we would sleep if we lived in a treehouse?” Over time, your child memorizes stories and sight words. You can also pretend you don’t know what a word means: “Mommy forgot what ancient means. Let’s look for some clues.”

Fun with phonics

Knowing the alphabet is important – but knowing sounds helps children blend words. Try singing Old MacDonald with letter sounds. Create paper bag puppets with capes or costumes to represent each letter. Put on puppet shows where characters teach their letter and sounds – Pirate P, Juggler J, Baker B and more.

Alphabet hunts

Does your child recognize the golden arches as a giant yellow M? At the supermarket, ask your child to find a package with the S sound. At a red light, look for signs and discuss the sounds, letters, and sight words.

Quality screen time

Guide your child to a worthwhile channel, website or app. Some suggestions: Hoopla Kidz; Super Simple Songs; Nat Geo Kids; Starfall.com; and fun literacy apps such as Endless Reader, Endless Wordplay, and Endless Learning Academy.

Lists and signs

Ask your child to draw food pictures on your grocery list. Have your child copy the greeting in a birthday card, make place cards for a family dinner, or help make a babysitter schedule. Make a town out of Duplos and create paper signs for buildings. These activities help children see the value of print in a way that makes them feel included.

The simplest toys

Write 10 sight words or letters on Post-it notes and scatter them in a room, then have your child find each one and try to read it aloud. Use sidewalk chalk to create an obstacle course, and have your child hop to a sight word. Play musical chairs (or couch cushions) with sight word cards. When the music stops, each child reads the sight word, letter, or sentence. Make words and letters in play dough, or trace letters and sounds in sand or shaving cream.

Hit the road!

Help children grasp concepts by taking trips that provide context, especially for science or history; many are free or inexpensive. Many libraries have free story hours; check out at least one nonfiction book each week. Many museums and zoos have free or reduced cost days. Visit historical sites and national parks. Go for a walk and talk about trees and clouds, or simply window shop.

A daily journal

Help your child remember good times in a blank notebook. Have them draw about an activity while you write a sentence under the picture. Next, have them copy a sentence. Finally, help your child sound out words and write them in the journal (don’t worry about spelling!) Frequently read the journal and talk about memories. Add family photos to make these books even more special.

Celebrate victories

We celebrate every success with a high five, elated applause, and sometimes even an M&M. Collect sight words on a binder ring or glued to popsicle sticks. Celebrate when you reach a new milestone like reading 20 words. Add stars to a chart for the number of books read each week. Milestones and victories are always a good excuse to go out for ice cream.

Question, Explain, Justify

“What did you do at the park today?” will bring responses like “I played on the slide.” Instead, ask “What was your favorite thing you did at the park today? Tell me why you liked it so much.” By adding the phrase “Tell me why?” or adding the word “explain,” you are asking your child to justify their thoughts.

Ask questions that encourage children to analyze topics and form an opinion: “Look at these new houses being built. It looks like they had to cut down some trees. What do you think about this?” Start the conversation; discuss pros and cons.

Cherish this time of learning and watch in awe as your child grows. Small moments rooted in literacy experiences can help your child grow into a lifelong reader, powerful writer, critical thinker – and get excited about kindergarten.