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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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School Readiness

O-12 Months##


What you can do to support your baby’s growing language and literacy skills from 12-24 Months:

  • Chat with your child.  Research has found that the more parents talk with their children, the larger vocabularies those children develop.  These children also use more advanced sentence structures.  So chatting with your toddler—in the car, at the playground, during bath time—is very important.
  • Notice and build on your child’s interests.  Your child will let you know what interests and excites him by using his actions, facial expressions and speech.  When he points out the window or gives you a questioning look, put his actions into words:  Yes, that’s a squirrel.  Look at him running along the fence.
  • Use new words when you talk with your toddler.  A snack can be many things: good, healthy, yummy, crunchy, round, etc.  Talk about what you are doing (I have to wipe the crumbs off the table) and about what you see your child doing (You are knocking down your block tower.  Watch it go boom!).
  • Name pictures in books.  Point out connections between books and your child’s “real” life.  For example, after you see the picture of a school bus in a story, you can watch one chug down the street later that afternoon.  Help him make the connection.
  • Ask questions as you read.  Where is the caterpillar? You can also begin to ask your child questions like:  Would you like to read a book?  What book do you want to read?   Soon your child will toddle off to pick up a book and bring it back to you.
  • Don’t make a big deal about speech mistakes.  There is no need to correct your child. Simply repeat the correct pronunciation. If you child says, “Gamma”, you might respond by saying, “I see that grandma gave you a cookie, yum yum!” to give your child a chance to hear how the word sounds.  Correcting your child can make him less likely to try saying new words.
  • Be a translator.  If other adults have difficulty understanding your child’s speech, you can “translate” what he is saying.  Give your child a chance to speak first, and then explain:  “Ben is telling you that this is his new truck.”
  • Repeat.  Choose books with stories that repeat words or phrases.  Children learn new words and pronunciations through repetition.  One good choice for this age group is Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle.  Other good choices include books that:
    • Encourage your child to speak, such as books that pose simple questions like Where Is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz;
    • Books with clear pictures of common objects (name the pictures for your child); and
    • Simple stories with predictable plots.
  • Read lots of books with your child.  Reading together helps your baby develop a love of reading.  It also helps her learn the skills to read books (such as turning the pages, reading the words, talking about the pictures).  Reading aloud also nurtures your child’s language and listening skills.
  • Recognize that not all books are winners. Toddlers have strong likes and dislikes.  Follow your child’s lead and let her decide which books to read.  Forcing a child to hear a story does not build a love of literacy.
  • “Read” the world around you.  Point out stop signs, open/closed signs, your street sign.  Let your child play with and “read” all kinds of written material—magazines, newspapers, catalogs, take-out menus.
  • Let them move.  Keep reading.  Children are often still listening even as they move around. In fact, some kids, who have a strong need to be on the move, listen better when they are in motion!
  • Encourage your child to act out the story you are reading.  For example, you can ask him to jump like the frog in the book.
  • Tell your child a story.  Instead of reading a book, tell your child a story.  Children still gain important literacy skills by listening.  They learn new words.  They also learn how a story unfolds in a sequence (beginning, middle, and end).
  • Put the book down when your child shows she is totally uninterested.  Follow your child’s lead and do some active play for a while.  Come back to the book later.  Forcing children to read can lead to negative feelings about books.
  • Let your child help “read” the book.  Let your child hold the book and turn the pages.  This helps her learn how a book works.  See if she would like to read to you in whatever way she likes.  She may want to point to the pictures and have you say what they are. Or she may babble as she “reads” the words on each page.
  • Talk about pictures in the book.  That bunny is getting tired.  He is in his bed.  He is going night-night.  Night, night, Bunny.  Talking about the pictures helps children develop a better understanding of what is happening in the story.  Sometimes, instead of reading the actual words in the book, you can simply talk about the pictures on each page.


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