Why Should You Read Aloud to Your Children?

We have all heard the statement that children who are read to are more likely to succeed. That is great, but with our busy world can’t we use technology to do this and will it have the same effect? YouTube has great videos and there are story podcasts, I am doing the same thing if I get those for my child, right?

Unfortunately, no. Video stories and podcasts that have children’s stories are great for car rides, or when you need that shower. To get the benefits for your child you need to sit with your child and read a physical book. Why?

To succeed children need many skills, they need to know how to interact with other people appropriately, they need to be able to connect with other people, they need to understand how other people might feel (empathy), they need to be able to pay attention for longer periods of time, and they need to remember and recall information.

Think about that one person you have worked with in the past that drove you crazy. What was it? Did they lack people skills? Maybe they had a hard time understanding simple directions? These are the things that reading with your child gives them.

So what do children get from reading a book with you?

Social and Emotional Learning

When you read with your child, have them sit in your lap or near you. They learn that reading is an enjoyable activity, and they are making an emotional connection to you.

Empathy

Books are a great way to talk about how other people feel. When you read a book you can talk about how the character in the book feels, and make connections to how your child feels. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is a great book to read with younger children. It is the story of a fish that is very beautiful with shiny scales, but finds he is very unhappy. Through the story you can talk with the child about how Rainbow Fish feels, and why he is happy at the end of the story.

Conversation Skills

Children naturally want to talk about what is going on in the book. What do they see in the picture, what do the characters feel like, have they ever had that happen? All of these opportunities are times to practice conversation skills with your child. The give and take of a conversation, and listening to another perspective! Wouldn’t the world be a better place if all adults practiced these skills?

Words are powerful

Increases Vocabulary

Reading often introduces children to words that they may not hear in their day to day world. Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young is a good example. It is about blind mice that find something one day, and each mouse goes to explore it and describes it differently. The first mouse said it was a pillar, the next says it is a snake, and the third says it is a spear, and on. While snake is a word that might come up in life, pillar and spear are not common words in most households. Look for books that are familiar but use words that a child may not hear everyday.

Increases Attention Span

If you have ever read to a 2 year old, you know that they may only sit for one page. However, often when you read to a 4 year old they can sit through the entire book, or a library full of books! If they have been read to they learn there are interesting things that can happen in the books, and their attention span increases. Part of this is how the brain develops. As a child gets older the connections in their brain develop and focus on the skills that are needed and practiced. If you sit and read with your child you are helping their brain form to be able to focus on an activity for an extended period of time.

Beyond all of the skills above children can also learn concepts about print, such as:

  • How to hold a book
  • Where to look in the book
  • How to interpret information and pictures
  • Find words
  • How to turn pages

Boost your child's brain by reading!

Make Reading Even More Brain Boosting By:

  • Have your child predict what is going to happen next in the story
  • Give your child a part – stories that have predictive text children learn the words and “read” them
  • Make connections with the story and the child’s life. Did they see a dog in the park? Is it similar to the dog in the book?

What are other ways you help your child boost their brain through reading?

 

Building Blocks for Your Child to Read and Write

Reading and writing is a skill that is important for a person’s ability to learn. Learning and developing reading and writing skills is something everyone should continue to practice starting as infants through adulthood.

Parents and family are the most important teacher in a child’s life. You can do many things now to boost your child’s learning and ability to learn for years to come.

Here are several ways to support your child’s ability to read and write at a young age:

Talking to your child increasing their language, and supports reading skills.

Talking to and with your child.

The more words children have, and the more experience with language, the easier it is for children to learn to read. The best way to help your children learn many words is to talk to them about every day activities.

  • At the grocery store, make a list, talk about it with your child;  do a scavenger hunt to see who can find the items on the list.
  • While cooking talk to your child about what you are doing, and talk about what happens to the food. For example, you make scrambled eggs, have your child describe the eggs before and after they are cooked. What happened? Why do they think that happened?
  • Tell stories. You don’t need to be an amazing storyteller. Your child will think your stories are great, regardless of what it is about. Tell a real story about when you were a child, or a story about a funny thing at work.

Busy Bugs Pattern

Make and find patterns in the world.

Words, sentences, and paragraphs in the English language are patterns. When we play with patterns, both visually and auditorily, we get familiar with seeing them in our world. Some ways to explore patterns:

  • Make patterns with toys or every day objects. Do you have toy animals at your house? Make a pattern of dog, cow, dog, cow. What about beans or pasta, make different patterns with the different types. After you make simple patterns, try complex patterns and challenge your child to finish the pattern.
  • Find patterns in the world. You would be surprised at how many patterns you can find when you start looking. Are the house colors a pattern? What about  the animals in that field?
  • Find patterns in the words we speak? By patterns I mean rhyming words. Dog/fog, and cat/hat. How many words can you think of that rhyme with  cow?

Give your child more experiences.

Now, I don’t mean taking your child to see the world. World travel is great if you can do it, but most of us are unable to afford distant travel. Instead give your child opportunities to experience and hear the words for many different things.

  • Go for a hike, how many different tress/plants can you find? Can you describe the different trees? How do you know they are different? You might only make it 200 yards with a young child, but think of what you can see in that distance.
  • Go to the grocery store. There are so many things to see an do at the grocery store!
  • Go to your local library. I think it goes without saying all of the cool things you can do to gain language at the library!
  • Go to a friend’s house. Everyone’s house is different with different experiences.

Playing with sound is fun

Play with sound.

Ok, you may think I am crazy here, but hear me out. When a child have experience with different sounds that make words, even nonsense words, they are able to understand the sounds of our language. This means when a child is learning to read, or gaining new words/spelling they have more experience with the sounds the letters make. Playing with sound is easier than you would think. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Music! Songs play with sounds is so many cool ways. Raffi is one of my favorite children’s songs artists, but there are so many.
  • Rhyming words! Have children come up with words that rhyme with their name, favorite animal, etc.
  • Make up a language. No seriously! Preschool age and up love to create nonsense words and assign them meaning. This is a great way to play with sounds!

What not to do!

Although I like to focus on what to do, it is important to highlight what does not work. Language and reading through media. Videos, games on the ipad/phone, all of the above. Children learn through human interactions. Research shows that learning through apps, flash cards, and videos may seem to work, but they don’t actually support children’s learning over time. In fact, research shows that media use by children contributes to mental health issues later in life.

If you want to give your child an app or video, do the above activities with your child at a rate of 5 human interactions to one computer/media interaction.

Leave your ideas in the comments for how to boost your child’s reading and writing.

Play is critical for children

Play is how children learn. You may have heard this this phrase, but what does it really mean?

Children naturally learn the skills they need for both life and academics through touching, moving, trying and failing, and talking. The best way to support children is to give them opportunities to explore and to explore with them.

One of the most important skills children and adults need in life are social and emotional skills. What does that mean? It means that a person can get along with others; can appropriately be aware of and express emotions; and regulate their emotions. These are difficult skills that many adults struggle with. Children gain these skills by people in their lives showing them, and practicing. A great game is to make faces and label them – silly faces, sad faces, happy faces – this is a natural activity for adults to do with infants and toddlers and is the beginning of understanding our emotions.

Another important skills is language – language skills is beyond reading and writing. Language is understanding what is communicated to you (receptive language); how to communication with others (expressive language); the mechanics of language – speech and listening; and the social rules of language. Infants naturally start playing with language by babbling and listening and looking for an adults reaction. Responding starts teaching receptive and expressive language. Another way of exploring language is to read different books, and talking about what you see and feel. This then combines social and emotional skills with language.

I hope to use this blog to explore more activities that adults can do with children to support their play and learning.

Toy Buying Guide

The holidays are only a few months away, and some people plan for the holidays a couple months in advance, others only a few days in advance, while others started shopping as soon as the holiday ended last year. No matter what type of planner this guide is for you.

We all want to purchase the gift that is loved for ages; AND we are all frustrated when gifts are played with for one day and never touched again. I know when my children were smaller, I was always picking up pieces of toys that never seemed to have a match.

I have put together this guide for things to think about when looking for gifts for any child or adult.

  1. Toys should have multiple ways they can be used.
  2. Quality; this means it is safe for the age of the child, and it is durable.
  3. Focus on the child’s interests.
  4. The toy is kid powered.
  5. Balance commercial or popular/show based toys with open ended toys.
  6. Look for toys that encourage learning.
  7. Look for toys that have “layers of learning” and grow with the child.

What does that all mean? I have spelled it out in a little more detail below

1.  Toys should have multiple ways they can be used.

Open ended toys, are toys that have multiple ways they can be used. For example, blocks or simple dolls can be used for a child in acting out many different scenarios. They can build towers and roads. This helps children learn about their world around them through their toys and building towers can help learn physics. When toys can be used in multiple ways, children are more likely to continue to play and use the toys. Open ended toys also are good to engage adults in the play.

Block It

2. Quality; this means it is safe for the age of the child, and it is durable.

We are lucky in the United States that there are laws that protect children from many harmful chemicals and risky toys. However, do not become complacent in your toy buying. There are still places where you may find toys with lead paint, or other hazards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains information about toy safety and recalls of toys. Additional consider the age of the child. Toys are required to have an recommended age on the packaging. Consider the age when purchasing. Toys that are marked for ages 3 years and up often have small parts that a younger child may choke on.

3. Focus on the child’s interests.

Even the best toys may not get used if the child is not interested in them. If possible find out what the child enjoys doing, and look for toys that are similar or enhance those activities. For example if the child loves putting things together, try a marble maze or Discovery Toys Motor Works Collection. If a child loves creating or designing, consider a craft kit or look up how to make different things and give the child a homemade craft kit. I know many 9 to 12 year old girls and boys that would love to receive a gallon of clear glue for a slime making kit! If you don’t have any ideas, Discovery Toys’ catalog is organized by interest area, and you can always message me with questions.

4. The toy is kid powered.

What does this mean? Exactly what it says. To have the toy do anything the child must do it. Technology is wonderful, but it does very little to enhance most children’s play. In fact, in some ways technology actually is discouraging creativity and problem solving skills. The skills that children need when they become adults in our culture. Again open ended toys are best, as children can create or use them as tools in their play. However any toy that is 100% kid powered is good! Think blocks, dolls and action figures that don’t talk on their own, puzzles, playdough, sand, etc.

 

5. Balance commercial or popular/show based toys with open ended toys.

I understand children have that one item that is a must have based on the latest movie or show; and it is good to get that one item for the holidays. However, you will notice if you have been around children for more than one holiday, those “must have” popular toys are loved for a few days or months, until the next popular movie or show comes out. Then that toy is forgotten.

Balance the toy purchases between the popular/show based toy and open ended toys. I would recommend one show based toy to two or three open ended toys. Toys that will last for years to come. Remember open ended toys are toys that are designed to be used in multiple ways. Blocks, Measure Up Cups, dolls, cars, and playdough are good examples of open ended toys.

Tactile sand castle

6. Look for toys that encourage learning.

I am NOT talking about worksheets or academic tools. While worksheets and other academic specific tools have a place in learning, they are not toys. Children learn through exploring and testing out different scenarios and ways of being. A child that has wooden blocks can build a road to experiment with how the car drives on the road, and if they have trouble at the gaps; and that same child can build a tower to learn how to build it high so that it doesn’t fall. This information they learn helps them with academics by having a base knowledge of patterning and physics. If you are unsure if the toy encourages learning, check out Discovery Toys. The mission of the company is to sell toys that support learning of children. Leave a comment or question on this post for guidance. Or ask your child’s teacher.

7. Look for toys that have “layers of learning” and that grow with the child.

“Layers of learning” is a fancy way of saying a toy can be used in a variety of ways. Children and adults prefer to learn in a variety of ways. Some of us are visual learners, some audio, and many kinesthetic (learning by doing/action). Toys that can be used by many different types of learners in a variety of ways can grow with a child and be used for years. Measure Up Cups are a great example. A toddler can use the cups for scooping sand or water, banging, and stacking. A preschooler can do those things and can sort by color, use the numbered cups for simple math (the one cup plus the two cup, can fill the three cup), and early elementary age children can use the cups to learn to tell time (look for the picture on the front) and cook using the cups as measuring cups!

Measure Up Cups from Discovery Toys

I hope you find this guide helpful in your gift giving! Please leave me suggestions or comments below.