Having a preschooler is a great sense of joy as they are trying to make sense of the world. Use this time of natural curiosity to build in deeper thinking and exploration of key and foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
Here are some ideas on building learning into the everyday that don’t require much preparation or time.
1. Patterns – Snack times are a good time to introduce and reinforce patterns. Serve fruit pieces in a simple pattern and then ask your child to continue the pattern. Start with 2 elements to the pattern and build from there. Put the fruit onto a skewer to add in some fine motor skill practice too. There can be benefits to playing with your food!
2.Bath time sounds and letters – Magnetic letters work fantastically in the bath. Try to buy lower case
magnetic letters. Introduce the letter name and sound to your child by making a connection that means something to your child eg) pet name, sibling name, favourite toy/interest etc. Then move on making and sounding out simple words like consonant/vowel/consonant words e.g.) cat, map etc
3. Story time – All over the world parents read bedtime stories to their children. Naturally parents and children ask questions during story times but you may like to try stepping up story time by adding in prediction, summarising and forming opinions. Simple questions like - What do you think is going to happen in this book ? when looking at the front cover or What's could happen next? are great questions to prompt prediction of possible plot development. Promote narrative structures, summarising and sequencing by asking your child what happened in the story. If reading to multiple children, take turns summarising the beginning, middle and end of the story. To encourage opinion formation, ask your child whether they liked this story/character and why. Change up the questions for variety. Try asking about their favourite page, worst character, best picture, funniest part etc. Click here to read the importance of reading to your child every day.
4. Make a book – This requires a 5-10 minute time slot and a decent printer or some art skills. My third child was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, so he learnt all his sounds/letters by naming Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Each day we would print out a new train and then add the name of it, in emphasising the initial sound. Use a clear file to add pages quickly. In time, this book became a treasured family item and we wrote a simple sentence for each page which led to an independent reading.
5. Build practice into everyday tasks - Brushing teeth or hair is a good time to reinforce the alphabet sequence or counting. My daughter hated having her hair brushed (still does!) but she allowed me to brush it for the entire alphabet. At first, I said it and then in time she said it independently.
6. Number walks – Read the letterboxes as you walk past. Your child is being exposed to numbers, place value, odds and evens. In time, this can lead to estimation and counting on.
7. Car trips, waiting in queues - A few minutes of boredom here and there can be spent playing simple games. Games that extend vocabulary are super easy and easy to think of on the spot. Try verbal ping pong. To play choose any topic e.g.) colours, animals, foods etc and take turns saying one item from that category. This game has the bonus of promoting listening too as you can’t repeat an answer. Click here for 10 more games to play when waiting.
Reinforcing key skills does not have to be an onerous task but a little bit built in everyday sets up fantastic work habits later on when homework becomes a part of your child's schooling life.