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Your child might be able to retell a familiar story, but she still wants you to read the story to her, especially her favourite ones. Reading time doesn’t have to be a set time in the day where you sit down with your child and a book. It could be during bath time, car rides, bedtime, or even during play time. These Nurture, Explore & Share tips give you some ideas on what to expect when reading with your child.

Reading with your toddler can be a fun experience as they are so curious about everything around them. Use these Nurture, Explore &Share tips to make reading time enjoyable for everyone.

Reading with your infant can be an exciting experience as they are slowly beginning to discover the world around them. Use these Nurture, Explore & Share tips to learn more about reading with your baby.

Warm summer days offer endless possibilities for fun in the sun! Planning activities can feel overwhelming at first but it may help to view activities in a different light. In support of your child’s lifelong learning, an activity can become part of a week-to-week adventure between you and your child, guiding a pathway to discovery through hands-on experience beyond home. The weekly project consists of many activities to build on your child’s interest and natural curiosity to learn about how the community is connected in one big circle. Project activities are special because they are intriguing to both children and parents and promote questioning to further understand the topic of interest (i.e. growing an herb garden).

You are partners in your child’s journey to learning about the world! Enjoy your child’s excitement for learning because the project you plan stirs up their curiosity. Parents are also learners, you are supporting your child’s curiosity by bringing them to environments for further exploration. For example, if your child asks how towers are built you might say “I don’t know exactly, but there are a lot of different materials and people with many skills to make that happen. Why don’t we find out about the materials first?” This is the opportunity for you and your child to connect by sharing a journey of knowledge together.

What we found out this summer!

Children create meaning based on what they see and do in the environment. Your child’s curiosity starts from anywhere and anything that catches their attention (ex: the grocery store, nature walk). You and your child are both investigators, working together to solve the mysteries of the world. For example, when your child moves food around on the plate, they could be wondering why carrots are orange in colour. You are the driving force to your child’s development of knowledge. A project starts with a question to discover what your child already knows about a topic. For instance, “Why do you think carrots are orange?”. Then, build on your child’s thinking by asking what else they want to know more about. For instance you might ask, “Do you wonder where we get carrots?”. A single topic will need multiple activities to understand beyond what is already known. With each question, an activity is created for you and your child to find new information that supports developmental domains such as social, emotional, and communication.

At the end of each week, you will create a special activity to celebrate your child’s discoveries. For example, hosting a picnic in the park after a week of learning the food groups and where food is purchased. Sharing and exploring curiosities with your child means you are investing in a lifetime of memories and creating a lifelong learner. Remember, children are always taking in new ideas and trying to make sense of them. We understand that spending time with your child is important and summer is a great time to start. In this summer guide, you will find 8 weeks of project approach ideas. For each week, a different topic is explored and organized into a simple daily activity appropriate for you to enjoy your child (toddlers and preschoolers). Remember, the provided project approach ideas can be changed to reflect your child’s interests and schedule.

Tips about Project Planning

  • Projects are about discovering how your child views the world before the project investigation begins;
  • Projects are about asking questions from your child’s perspective;
  • Projects are about searching for more information to provide a deeper understanding of a topic;
  • Projects are about using what you’ve learned and applying that knowledge to day-to-day routines.

« Download the Summer Guide Project Chart (PDF) »

« Summer Activity Guide Part 1: Everyday Moment Summer Activities »

Everyday Moments throughout provides you and your child memorable opportunities to learning through summer adventures! A time to capture sights and sounds where you and your child make new sensational experiences. Whatever you have planned for the summer, creating a summer routine adds memories to the precious moments you already spend with your child.

What are Everyday Nature Activities?

For new parents, summer is a great time to bring your child outside to explore nature using their five senses: hear, touch, smell, sight, and taste. This could be your child’s first time exploring nature; take it slow as they become more comfortable with their senses as you explore those moments together. For instance, you could point to a flower and describe the petal and stem colours. Then, smell the flower together to discover a particular scent. Being able to share outdoor Everyday Moments means your child will become more comfortable exploring nature-like features such as plants, animals, and weather conditions. A nature activities offers a variety in terms of materials, along with new ways of experiencing existing indoor activities. A planned routine could mean your child feels more prepared and confident to conquer the activities planned for the day!

Planning a routine is like having a tool box of activities to experience throughout the summer. Having a variety of activities on hand makes life easier for you and your child to plan activities and build your schedule. Summer time feels warm and light, feel free to change up activities to fit your child’s interests and environment. For example, if it rains when you initially planned an outdoor picnic, don’t be afraid to host an indoor picnic!

Activities Anytime Anywhere

Everyday Moment Summer Activities

› Wake Up Time

Infant : Massage your Baby: Arms and Hands
Toddler : Toddler Sees Mr. Sunrise
Preschooler : Preschooler Wake-up Routine

› Meal Time

Infant: Baby Feast Food Experience
Toddler: Toddler Picnic
Preschooler: Preschool Ice-cream Snack

› Play Time

Infant: Baby Nature Walk
Toddler: Toddler Playing Ball
Preschooler: Preschool Painting with Nature

› Tidy-up Time

Toddler: Toddler Cleans up a Mess
Preschooler: Preschool Tidy-up Time

› Change Time

Infant: Baby Tickles
Toddler: Toddler Colour Day Game
Preschooler: Preschooler Buttons

› Bed Time

Infant: Baby Bath and Wash Time
Toddler: Toddler Sees Twinkle Star
Preschooler: Preschool Bed-Time

Everyday Moments are precious moments in the day where nurture, explore, and share happen between you and your child (i.e. wake-up, meal time, bed time, story time). A summer routine is unique because children can respond differently to the outdoor environment (i.e. weather, plants, animals, scent). The outdoors provide another place to bond with your child. Bonding time supports your child’s emotional and social development to think out loud and describe feelings of other and of self. Activities in this summer guide are geared towards babies, toddlers, and preschoolers which you may find helpful to add to your summer routine.

Participating in summer activities is entertaining and enjoyable, however, planning the activity can be just as fun! Hunting for materials for an art project for example, can be a game in itself. One way to get into planning is to be as curious as your child is. For example, you might point at a beautiful rainbow and your child might ask “What is a rainbow? Add an outdoor element to your painting activity outdoors, by painting the colours of the rainbow with your child with sticks and leaves instead of paint brushes.

Spending time with your child creates a lifelong social and emotional connection towards a loving relationship. When your child is familiar with your voice and touch, they will respond with safety and security. Your child will thrive knowing you are there to support them even when they feel afraid. Is your child afraid of walking under a running water spray? To reassure your child’s fear, you might say, “The water is surprising, but if watch the rhythm of the fountain, you might figure out the best time to run through, watch me!”. Exploring new activities together in a nurturing environment helps to develop their understanding of fear and how to overcome those fears.

Did you know:

  • Pretend play helps your child to develop problem-solving and social skills to be able to share ideas and feelings.
  • Building independence means giving your child time to try a challenging task such as pulling their shirt over their head.
  • Sharing feelings develops your child’s emotional understanding of others and self.
  • Your child can overcome fears based on your reassuring voice. For instance, you pet the dog and say “This is a nice dog”. Wait for your child to pet the dog, then in a calm voice respond, “The dog loves to be petted by you, I’m right here”.

Complete Summer Guide PDF download coming soon!

« Summer Activity Guide Part 2: The Pursuit of Summer Fun »

For many new parents, the thought of an Everyday Moment might not represent anything particularly special. Perhaps those moments start to feel just like routine parts of every day.

But there is magic in the Everyday Moments you are already spending with your child. Magic in moments like waking up, meal time, diaper change time, bath time, play time, reading time, driving to the store, walking to the park, bed time.

In each of those Everyday Moments are opportunities to really connect with your child. And they are moments to cherish. Talking with your baby, pointing and talking about what you’re doing, cuddling and tickling when changing a diaper, singing when driving in a car, cuddling anytime is a good idea.

And here’s the magic part. If you do all these things while spending time with your baby through the Everyday Moments, you will be supporting your child’s healthy social, emotional and intellectual development as you interact with your baby. You do not have to plan a special event or buy a bunch of things…an Everyday Moment should feel natural because they do happen naturally throughout the day as you continue to nurture and share moments with your baby. Nothing complicated, only time with your baby is a moment well-spent in promoting developmental milestones (i.e. social, emotional, thinking, language, body and hand movement).

Example:

By sharing Everyday Moments your baby is learning many things at once, take this opportunity to be an explorer with your baby. An example could be when your baby is staring at an object (ex: trees, cars) or person; take this opportunity to describe what they might be observing. Say “you’re looking at orange leaves up on the tree” instead of “are you looking at that tree”. The more you describe, the more your baby hears words to build on language skills. This way, your baby will not only learn words but also become aware of the things in their environment.

One of the most common and frequent Everyday Moments is during bedtime when you tuck your baby in. This is an ideal moment because there is so much to do during bedtime. Some bedtime suggestions include:

  1. Cuddling
  2. Reading a story to your baby
  3. Sharing about your day
  4. Singing a lullaby song to your baby
  5. Talking to your baby (Remembering the food you ate with your baby or the time you spent together).

More Everyday Moments activities: Infants | ToddlersPreschoolers

DID YOU KNOW…?

  • When you respond to your baby crying middle of the night, you become more mindful of their different types of cries
  • Eye-to-eye contact with your baby provides a strong communication bond
  • Your hormones can effect bonding time with your baby (i.e. keep smiling)

Have you ever wondered how your child is learning, for example, learning languages? Little do we know, it’s all comes from the way we speak and how much we speak. In other words, repeating words and sentences to your child can improve their development in language and literacy—their ability to read and write. Below are some great tips that will support you as a parent in taking part in your child’s speaking, understanding, writing and reading skills.

Reading bedtime stories

What are the reasons behind reading to your child? There are many benefits but the most important is that reading helps your child learn new words and understand different languages. The best part is, you can read to your child in more than one language and they will still learn to speak and understand that language. The key is to keep reading to your child, as much as possible, especially the stories they are most interested in.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • A child needs to hear 1000 stories before they will learn to read
  • Reading aloud to babies builds their memory skills
  • Asking your child what’s not in a story could expand their thinking and imagination
  • Bonding– chemical change of skin to skin while reading

Repeating words & sentences

How is your child able to remember so many words? It all depends on how many times you repeat a word. Your child will learn as many words as you say out loud but the key is to repeat words again and again. For example, when you take your child grocery shopping, you can name the items you place into your basket such as “this is orange juice”. The more detailed the sentence, the better for your child to understand. Grocery shopping is not the only time to teach words to your child, you can teach your child at any time of the day or night: dinner time, bath time, cooking, play time etc. The everyday moments you are already spending with your child are the very best times to build language and literacy skills.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • 50% of words in English language can be learned by just sounding out the word
  • Children need to hear a specific word 250 times before they remember it
  • The more words parents use when speaking to their baby, the greater size of their child’s vocabulary by the age of 3

Singing songs

Songs and nursery rhymes are always a great way of leaning new languages. Usually, your child will end up getting bored by simply hearing the words but you can make it more fun by singing songs and nursery rhymes to them. This way, your child is not only having fun but also learning new words through the songs and nursery rhymes. The songs below may be enjoyable for your child because they consist of many repeating words:

More songs with lyrics »

DID YOU KNOW:

  • A child who knows 4 nursery rhymes by the age of 4 will naturally be a better reader by age 8
  • During the first few months, your baby just likes to hear your voice, so it doesn’t matter what you sing or read to them
  • When you sing, your voice soothes your baby

Family Lives

Most parents love being called, Mommy or Daddy by their child. This is as essential as the hugs and kisses we give our children. Hollywood has often portrayed the traditional family as Mother (female), Father (male), and child. The evolution of family make-up has been changing for many years. More recently, we are moving towards a greater understanding of more diverse family members (i.e. same sex parents and transgender parents). In support of all diverse family members, we’d like to mark June as Pride Month.

Pride Month celebrates the history of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer) community. Pride asks us to open our mind and consider that not all of us are the same — that not all families are the same. A family that might have parents who could be either both female or male (same sex) or parents who have transitioned to the opposite gender (transgender) either way — parents are parents– they love their children and want the very best for them. June is the month to remember that creating an openness in our children ultimately creates a more tolerant world. Respect from one’s own community is something all parents want to feel, and attitudes around acceptance and tolerance happen in the formative years for our children. Our attitudes are often mirrored by our children.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Toronto is the first city in Canada to make June Pride Month.
  • Diverse family members (i.e. same sex parents or a transgender parent) have common family values (i.e. providing their child with a loving and nurturing environment).

What Your Child Sees

Your child learns through seeing and hearing because this is how they gain information about their world. As your child grows up, the conversations you share about different families prepares them to build positive relationships. Remember your child looks up to you for guidance that will help shape their own understanding of society.

Together, you and your child could explore the real world by seeing pictures and reading stories about diverse family members. Learning together is more fun, plus your enthusiasm motivates your child to be a lifelong learner! If your child reads stories about two Mommies or two Daddies that they can relate to, for example, two Daddies playing hide and seek with their child, then they will recognize that love can be found in many types of families. Of course, moments like these can help your child appreciate cultures that may be different or similar to what they have experienced thus far.

As you look back at history in our society, fathers typically have not played a significant role in the early years of their child’s development. More typically, mothers have taken on that role, becoming the primary caretaker through those early formative years. Fathers would participate less frequently in their children’s everyday moments such as feeding, bathing, bedtime, reading, etc. largely because they were working, but as often, because there was a general discomfort with knowing what to do and how to do it. In today’s world, times have changed. More and more fathers are breaking the stereotype, spending quality time with their newborns and taking a much more active role as Dads, particularly through those first 5 years. And it turns out- this is really important for the healthy development of their child.

DID YOU KNOW:

  • Father’s Day is celebrated the third Sunday in June in over 50 countries around the world.
  • In the underwater world of the seahorse, it’s the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.
  • Children highly involved with their fathers or a consistent male role model have a lesser chance of acquiring behavioral problems.
  • Québec has the highest “paternity leave” rate for fathers across Canada.

Just as a baby benefits from the love and nurturing of a mother, a baby also benefits from the love and nurturing of a father. There are special ways for fathers to become really involved in the everyday moments they share with their children:

  • Holding your baby near you and talk to them- this actually helps their language and literacy
  • Once Mom has finished breastfeeding, take the opportunity to cuddle with your baby with soothing tones – this will help you bond together
  • Read picture books daily; even infants benefit from you reading to them
  • Play – every day! You are your child’s #1 playmate!

As children grow older they often look up to their fathers for advice; they can share everything with their fathers, just as they do with their mothers. Studies have shown that children with involved fathers or a consistent and positive male role model, build meaningful relationships and are more ready to go to school.

With Father’s Day just around the corner (June 19th), we celebrate Dads!

Reading with your baby is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give your child.

Reading aloud teaches a baby about communication. It builds listening, language and memory skills. The more the senses are stimulated, the more quickly the rest of a baby’s brain will develop.

But perhaps the most important reason to regularly spend time looking at pictures in a book or reading aloud to your baby is that it makes a strong connection between the things your baby loves the most — your voice and being close to you and books. Instilling a love of reading and learning will help to ensure your child reaches their full potential as they grow and develop.

This is a wonderful way for Dads to form special bonds with their babies!

1. Long before your baby can talk, they are learning about language.

They are sending you clues about what they need, wants and feels. They will test different cries, gurgles and facial expressions to see how you respond. Then they’ll keep doing the ones that get the results they want. As they learn that they can make things happen, they will develop confidence and want to try new things. Keep on talking with your baby. Try repeating the sounds they make and adding new ones.

2. Learning to “read” your baby is fun, but can be a challenge.

They smile – you smile back. They reach out – you touch their hand. If they turn their head away when you speak, that can hurt you. But she may be telling you they are tired. Or maybe they need your voice to be softer. They may just want to be left alone for a moment. It takes trial and error to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you, so be patient.

3. Babies experience relationships through their senses.

The best way to tell your baby you love them is with lots of talking, cuddling and eye contact. You cannot always be there when they want a hug. But when they are“asking” for a hug, do your best to deliver.

4. Your baby forms a secure attachment to you as you care for them.

Through daily routines, your baby learns that they can rely on you. They gain a feeling of safety. This trusting attachment sets the basis for their future relationships.

5. You cannot spoil your baby by responding to their needs.

Babies are born with a need for human contact. In the process of providing it, you learn more about them, and they learn more about you. They learn that they can count on you.

6. Special moments need time.

Not all of your one-on-one moments with your baby will be happy and special. You need to spend lots of time getting used to each other for those special moments to happen. They will happen more if you focus on your child while doing everyday things.

7. Babies are most ready to learn when they are calm and alert, in a quiet environment.

This is a good time to spend with your baby and to play.

8. Toys can’t take your place.

Giving your baby toys and other safe things to play with is good for their development. But playing WITH your child is even more important to their well-being.

9. Even when you are really busy, it’s important to make time for your baby.

Housework isn’t the top priority. If you have a partner, try to take turns with chores and with spending time with your baby. Build a circle of friends, relatives and neighbours. We can all use a bit of help!

10. You don’t have to be perfect to be a terrific parent.

So relax. And your child doesn’t have to be perfect to be a terrific child. You will both make mistakes, and you will both recover. So enjoy each other now because babies grow up quickly!

Babies learn to talk long before they say their first word. Therefore, both you and your partner should talk to your baby, right from birth. Listening to and becoming familiar with the sounds of language help your baby’s brain get ready to speak. Try to talk to your baby as you feed, change, dress, soothe, bathe or play with her. For example, you can describe what you’re doing, or put what you think she is feeling into words.

Try to look at and smile at your baby, and be expressive and animated when you’re talking to him. When your baby starts to make sounds, try to repeat them and add to them. For example, if your baby says “ba-ba,” you can make it into a word, like “bye-bye” and wave as you say it.

Another way to prepare your child to speak is to talk about things your baby is seeing as you go through your daily routine. For instance, on a walk you could point out the leaves on a tree or children playing. And as your baby begins to reach for objects, repeat the name of what she is reaching for.

It’s also a good idea to read lots of stories and rhymes to your baby, and sing songs. It doesn’t matter if your baby doesn’t understand the words. The more he hears language, the more easily he will learn it.

Don’t think you can speed things up or avoid having to talk to your baby by playing tapes or the radio. It’s just not the same. Your baby needs warm interaction with you, the expression in your voice and the smile on your face in order to feel secure enough to learn. So, when listening to tapes or the radio, join in. Sing along, talk back to the radio and dance with your baby to the music.

For some parents, the idea of reading to their newborn seems ridiculous. If the baby can’t speak or understand, why would they be interested in a story? But child development experts are quick to assure new parents that reading to their child is one of the most important things that they can do.

Reading to your baby right from birth, even during pregnancy, can make a big difference in your child’s development. It’s a way to communicate with your baby that will help him build his language skills. Through reading, you’re also comforting your baby. You’re involved by touching, rocking and speaking to him. And when you read, you’re playing with him. You can make sound effects or ask questions or try commenting on what he’s looking at. It’s a chance to teach your baby about colours, shapes, feelings, how people act and react and what the world is all about.

It may seem strange that all of those things help your baby before he can even talk, but there are even more benefits. Experts believe that early literacy helps your baby increase his vocabulary and attention span. He’ll develop an eagerness to read and learn. He’ll know how to handle books, understand how to put sentences together, predict what happens next in a story, increase his social skills, bond with you and identify his feelings.

The best time to start reading to your baby is actually during pregnancy. There is evidence that reading to your baby while in the womb promotes bonding and baby comes to prefer his parents’ voices. In research studies, babies have even shown a preference for songs or stories that they had been exposed to before they were born.

With a baby, it can be tough to hold their attention to read them a story. Try to choose books with large print and pictures that will keep your baby interested. Speak in the slightly higher pitched, animated simple words that are often called “parentese.” Make sure your baby is comfortable, dry and fed so that he won’t be distracted as you read. And, as much as it might seem repetitive to you, try to read the same book every day for a while. It will help develop your baby’s memory, plus your baby will start to look forward to the pictures and words on the next page.

Let your baby touch the book you are reading. Touch is a central part of human learning. We all learn especially well when we can pick up and handle materials. For babies, experts generally recommend board books because they are safer (much harder to chew), plus they’re great for helping babies learn to exercise their fingers and hands.

If your baby fusses when you are reading, don’t try to keep reading or choose a different book. Put the book away and wait for a time when baby is calm. The last thing you want is to have your baby connect fussiness with reading. Always wait for a time when your baby is in a happier mood and then try reading.

Tips for reading with your baby

  • If you make reading with your baby a routine, your baby will feel safe and comforted.
  • If you routinely read in an animated way, your baby will be enjoying playtime with you
  • If you make reading a reading routine, your baby will learn to pay attention, pick up words for his vocabulary, and learn to think ahead.

Check out this Reading with Your Baby video for more tips and strategies for reading with your baby.

Reading to children has many benefits. It is a great opportunity to bond and enjoy each other’s company. It can also increase their vocabulary, trigger their imagination and expose them to new experiences and concepts. Moreover, reading with children prepares them for learning to read by fostering their appreciation for books and by familiarizing them with print and the structure of stories.

Some parents wonder whether reading to their child in utero has any benefits. While there is no research suggesting that this has any unique benefits, doing things like talking, reading or singing to your child during your pregnancy will help you develop feelings of attachment towards her. By focusing on her in this way, you can begin to include her in your life. Also, through these activities and your everyday conversations with others, you are exposing your child to your voice. As a result, she will be capable of recognizing it from the moment she is born and this will contribute to her bonding with you. So it’s never too early to start reading to your child.

From the first days of life and throughout childhood, you can help instil a love of reading. Start by setting an example. Show your child that reading is an enjoyable activity by reading in his presence and keeping lots of reading material in your home. Read to him often (several times a day!), a special activity that stimulates your child’s senses through colourful illustrations to look at, the comforting sound of your voice, your touch and your smell as he snuggles against you.

You can further enhance your child’s enjoyment of book-reading by encouraging your child to get actively involved in various ways. For example, let your infant manipulate sturdy board books and soft cloth or plastic books as you read to him. He will enjoy feeling the different textures with his fingers… and his mouth! These actions can make book-reading a more fun, positive and engaging experience for your child by allowing him to play an active rather than a passive role.

It is also important to let your child set the pace. Spend as much or as little time as he wants on each page. Also, give him the opportunity to choose books that interest him. Raid your local library or bookstore so you have a wide selection of books available to choose from and let him decide which book he wants to read, even if you’ve already read it three times that day! By respecting his choices and supporting his interests in these ways, you will foster his appreciation of books and help him develop a positive attitude towards reading.

Try to choose books that are appropriate for your child’s age and level of development. Children’s books often come with age recommendations that are based on factors such as the book’s length, the level of vocabulary, the topics and concepts covered, and the amount of detail appropriate for the average child’s level of development at a given age.

Some parents find that their child does not seem to be interested in books. They try to close the book or struggle to get away during story time. If this happens to you, don’t force things as this will only frustrate both of you. However, do try again soon. Choose your timing carefully and take into account your child’s mood and energy level. Pick a time when your child is relaxed, perhaps just before bedtime, and read in a quiet place where there is no other distraction such as the television or other family members who are engaged in a different activity. Also, suggest books that match your child’s interest (e.g. animals, machines, rhymes, etc). He will be more likely to enjoy such books. It’s also important to follow your child’s lead and to give him plenty of leeway for exploration; don’t assume he will understand right from the beginning that the pages have a specific order, or that he will want to read the whole book in one sitting. The important thing is that he has fun, not that he does it the “right” way.

Skin-to-Skin contact is holding or laying your baby on your chest or abdomen with your baby just wearing his diaper. This can be done immediately after your baby is born and in the weeks and months following his birth. You can put a light receiving blanket over baby. Both mom and dad can provide skin-to-skin contact with baby.

Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits for your baby, including babies that were premature. Immediately following birth, it helps your baby adjust to the world around her. She is warmed by your body heat, her heart rate and breathing stabilize and her presence helps to release Oxytocin, a hormone in Mom’s body that will help in breastfeeding and keep Mom’s uterus contracted. Your baby’s senses are heightened immediately following birth; she will smell her mom’s body, look at her parents, hear their voices and feel their touch. Skin-to-skin contact in the weeks and months following birth continues to offer benefits to your baby such as:

  • Helps increase breast milk supply as frequent skin-to-skin contact allows baby frequent access to breastfeed
  • Baby has an increased ability to keep warm
  • Increased comfort from the warmth of your body, hearing your heartbeat and closeness of your voice
  • Improved weight gain
  • Increased baby-parent bonding
  • Improved oxygen levels in baby
  • Continued improvement in baby’s breathing patterns and heart rate
  • May help calm baby during painful procedures

Here are some tips that will help you encourage your baby to begin talking.

  • Try to respond to whatever type of communication your child makes, such as pointing and gesturing.
  • Provide your child with a model for conversation. For example, ask some questions and talk about what your child is doing and what you and other family members are doing.
  • Try to speak slowly, naturally and clearly to your child.
  • Read stories together.
  • Give your child lots of opportunity to be with other children to hear their conversations.
  • Try to help by putting your child’s feelings into words in situations that make him frustrated.
  • Sing and dance to music together.

If you find that your child makes no attempt to speak by 18 months, doesn’t use many gestures to communicate, or seems to have trouble understanding what is said, discuss this with your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

Babies are born with the need to form close relationships with caring and responsive adults, which are called “attachments.” If children don’t have the opportunity to develop close, uninterrupted attachments with nurturing adults during the early years, young children will find it more difficult to learn, to become confident and to trust others.

Infants and young children can form consistent attachments with the people who are around them most. These few important relationships create a sense in your child of what kind of world this is and what her place is in it.

A secure attachment to caring adults helps your child learn to adapt to circumstances more easily, and to overcome difficult situations throughout his life. This kind of attachment helps your child to believe the world is a friendly and safe place. Having a parent or caregiver who understands and responds sensitively to a baby’s signals, such as picking baby up and comforting him when crying, helps the baby form a secure, healthy attachment.

Relax, and don’t worry about making mistakes.  All parents learn by trial and error. As long as your baby knows she can count on you most of the time, she’ll be amazingly flexible and forgiving.

Reading is one of those pleasurable activities parents can engage their children in, that provides so many developmental benefits. When done on a regular basis, reading helps young children to develop language and listening skills and prepares them for recognizing the written word. Most importantly, reading provides the opportunity for parent and child to enjoy each other’s company in a quiet, fun and emotionally satisfying way.

Make reading a part of your child’s daily bedtime routine. From the youngest infant to the oldest preschooler, reading at bedtime provides comfort and security. The nicest way to end the day is sharing a favourite story with a parent.

Pay attention to which pages or books become your child’s favourite. When you support your child’s interests he gets the message that what he likes or cares about is valued.

Describe the emotions shown in pictures or in the characters, e.g., “Baby bear looks sad. Do you think he needs a hug?” Young children need to hear and learn the words for feelings as they begin to make sense of their own emotions.

Take time to talk about the story together. Say, “I wonder what will happen next” or ask, “What do you think this girl is going to do?” This simple conversation stretches your child’s imagination and creative thinking. For younger children ask them to point to an object when you ask, “Where’s the cow?” or wait for a response when you ask, “What’s that?” Very young children will learn that communication is a two way process.

Change the tone of your voice and use lots of animation in your face, e.g., whisper for someone who is sleeping, or use a lower tone for something that is big. This will engage your child in the story and she will also learn to watch your face and listen to your voice for different emotions.

Reread stories that have become favourites and leave out key words or phrases. Your child will love to fill in the blanks, practice beloved rhymes or take the opportunity to retell the story in her own words. This will make reading an interactive experience.

Take the opportunity to talk about the colour, shape and size of objects. Your child will be into his preschool years before he’ll be able to identify and label the abstract concepts of size, shape and colour but books provide a simple vehicle to make them aware of such concepts.

When it comes to a child’s language development, it’s safe to expect that by 24-months, or 30-months at the latest, the average child will be saying 50 different words and/or two-word combinations, such as “throw ball,” or “red ball.”

Although most children can say simple words in their first year and small sentences by age two, some children begin talking at a later age. We don’t really know why some children begin to talk faster than others, but it does happen.

For some children, language can continue to develop without many words. These children may need to have more time to recognize the patterns of language and how to say what they are thinking.

For others, particularly children who have older brothers or sisters, a pattern may develop where they let the older children speak for them – reducing the need to speak for themselves. But this doesn’t mean the late talker is less intelligent. When your child does start to speak, it may even be at a more advanced level than you’d expect.

Although it is better if your child can speak for himself, it’s okay to let older children speak for your child, as long as he tries to communicate in some way, like using gestures. No one should shame or criticize your child for not being able to talk – it’s something he can’t help.

If you find that your child makes no attempt to speak by 18 months, doesn’t use many gestures to communicate, or seems to have trouble understanding what is said, discuss this with your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

To help your child to talk more, it’s a good idea to talk to her whenever you’re together, carrying on a flow of conversation about what you’re doing, and about what she is doing. Try to be animated, using gestures and lots of expression in your voice. Emphasize important words and phrases. But you should pause frequently and for what may seem to be a long wait, so your child has a chance to digest what you have said and to respond. It also helps to have lots of books around and to read to your child often.

Try to encourage his talking by asking some open-ended questions (such as “How do you…?” or “What do you think?”) or by talking about subjects he is interested in. Sometimes, for very quiet children, a good beginning is to ask him to fill in words in familiar rhymes or stories that they know by heart. Really listen to your child, getting down at his eye level and looking at him when he talks. When playing together, follow your child’s lead and talk about what you’re playing with.

It may be tough, but try not to get frustrated by what sounds like “baby talk” from your child. And don’t correct your child’s speech too much. The best thing you can do is set a good example in the way you talk. If you are concerned that your child is behind in language, you may want to call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

Work, household chores and social activities all put a strain on your time with your toddler but it’s really important to spend quality time together. This will help build a trusting relationship, and reassure your child that he can count on you. But you can’t turn on quality time like a light switch. It comes sometimes when you least expect it, if you spend enough relaxed time and do enough things together.

You will, no doubt, start by looking for things that you can do to free up more time for family, such as:

  • Deciding which household chores can be left undone or be done imperfectly in order to make more family time.
  • Leaving certain things until after your child has gone to bed to make the most of your time together.
  • Turning some routines, such as driving to daycare or doing the dishes, into quality time by singing together or talking seriously about what is happening in your lives.

There will be occasions when the time you spend with your toddler may have to be juggled around a bit, but try not to skip them entirely. Also, try to spend time alone with EACH of your children.

Remember that children like things that are predictable. So plan your quality times so that they can take place regularly. Maybe you can eat dinner together, or go to the park first thing every Sunday morning.

It is important to remember that no matter how old a child is, all areas of development are intertwined, and progress depends on nurturing every facet of development – social, intellectual, language, emotional, gross and fine motor. Each child develops at his own pace within a distinct period of time. Every child is unique and requires different care.

Toddlerhood is a balancing act for everyone, as your child struggles between the need to be independent and try so many new things and the need to rely on and feel protected by parents and caregivers. As a result, toddlers shift suddenly in their emotions, going from “me do it” to tantrums when they are frustrated. She wants help, but then again, she doesn’t – it’s all part of becoming an individual. Lots of patience and encouragement are essential, as parents and caregivers guide toddlers who need to do so much for themselves. Toddlers cope much better with separation and are better equipped to form new attachments. Although routines are important, so are flexibility and giving your toddler easy choices. Parents and caregivers are beginning to see a real sense of their child’s temperament and personality.

Your toddler demonstrates a new level of self-awareness – by how he calls himself by name, identifies body parts, recognizes himself and family in a photograph, dresses himself and has a simple understanding of having his own things. Practicing self-help skills is an important part of a toddler’s day, and many children begin toilet training during this time. Toddlers can communicate feelings, desires and interests using words and gestures. They also have a good idea of where things are located in and around the house or at child care.

By age two, many toddlers can play on their own and concentrate on an activity for a brief period of time. There is more and more pretend play with props, looking at books and singing simple songs. As toddlers gain more control over their bodies, they love to run, kick balls, jump and climb, get on and off chairs, step backwards and sideways, go up and down the stairs and push and pull toys. As the movements of the small muscles become more refined, toddlers can do simple puzzles, take lids off jars, fit a series of objects into one another, draw vertical lines, turn pages of a book one at a time, build bigger towers and use a fork. It is during this age range that children begin to sort and match things, count, tell the difference between “one” and “many” and start distinguishing colours and shapes.

Toddlers continue to play alongside other children. Sharing can be encouraged at this age, although it should not be expected to be perfect. At times, toddlers become very frustrated, especially if they are unable to make themselves understood, and may bite others as well as hit or pull hair. A lot of play is accompanied by language, as now toddlers have a vocabulary of approximately 50 words. They can name familiar everyday objects, use two-word sentences and communicate whole ideas with one word, such as “milk” for “I want a glass of milk.” Sometimes it can be a difficult task for parents and caregivers to figure out exactly what the child wants. Toddlers begin to have a basic understanding of time, such as “soon,” “not now,” and “after your nap,” but do not have a concept of “yesterday.” And “no” is still a very popular word with the two-year old!

It is very important to give your toddler plenty of opportunities to cooperate with household chores: setting the table, cleaning spills, cooking, loading and unloading the washing machine, sorting dirty clothes, etc. Your toddler has a fascination for all these activities and by allowing her to participate in them you are not only making her feel important and helpful to the family, but you are also giving her a great opportunity to develop inner aptitudes for concentration, order, calmness, coordination, and motor skills, as well as teaching her to take care of her environment.

Learning to talk is a gradual process. It’s common for a child’s speech to become less clear as she tries to use more words with more difficult sounds, because these require more effort and motor control.

Your child may in fact end up saying as little as possible during different stages of learning to talk, or they may begin to act up, out of frustration at not being able to communicate the way your child would like.

It is very important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s attempts to communicate, and to encourage these attempts.

Here are some tips to use if you’re having trouble understanding what your child is trying to say:

  • If you don’t understand what your child is saying, encourage them to repeat it by saying things like “Tell me again” or “Tell me more.”
  • If you got part of what your child said, repeat the part that you understood, and ask them to fill in the missing parts.

Watch your child closely.

  • Watch for eye movements or gestures that might give you a hint about what your child is trying to say.

Ask your child for help. 

  • Make it appear like you’re having trouble hearing by saying things like “I didn’t quite hear that” and ask your child to say it again.

If after all of your attempts, you still can’t understand what your child is trying to tell you, you may have to apologetically say that you do not understand.

Usually children’s speech improves over time. If you are concerned that your child’s speech isn’t improving or if your child keeps acting up out of frustration over not being able to be understood, you may want to discuss this with your child’s doctor. You can also call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519, and they will guide you to an appropriate referral if needed.

When you’re expecting another child you want to prepare your child for the changes that a new sibling will bring.

Our experts have created some tips to help you make the transition a little smoother.

  • Let your child know that the baby is coming two or three months before the birth. Talk about the changes that will take place in the household and answer any questions she may have about birth and reproduction in a way that suits her age.
  • Assure your child that you will love him just the same.
  • Make your child feel important by saying, “You’re going to be a big brother (or sister).” Let your child know he has a role and a relationship with the new baby.
  • Have your child help in choosing a name and in picking out baby clothes. Let your child feel the baby kicking.
  • Take your child to visit someone else’s new baby so he can learn what to expect and get used to the size and sounds of an infant.
  • If you are the mother, encourage your partner to spend more time with your child before the birth so she becomes used to that before you get too busy with the baby.
  • If your child is going to be moved out of a crib and into a bed, it’s best to do this long before the new baby arrives. This gives your older child time to become attached to the “new bed.” This way he won’t think the move out of a favourite sleeping place (the crib) was because of the new baby.
  • Read children’s books that are about new babies to your child.

Adjusting to a new setting takes time. Your preschooler needs to know that you are on his team as he moves towards being comfortable in a new daycare or school.

Here are several ways to help your child adjust to a new daycare or school:

Let your child know that you realize change isn’t easy and that you know it takes time to adjust to new places, people and things.

Be supportive and encouraging, not impatient or frustrated.

Explore the new area, or new daycare or school with your child in advance of going there on the first day.

Along with your child, get involved with new groups and activities at daycare or school. This will help you feel more connected to your child’s new situation, too.

Help your child find the playgroups and activities she has always liked doing, and try to get her involved, outside of daycare or school.

Where possible, allow your child to stay connected with friends from his old daycare or school.

Ask your child what you can do to help – children often have great ideas about how you can help them feel better.

It would be a mistake to let your child stay home from a new daycare or school just because he is afraid and doesn’t want to go. But don’t force your child to get involved in outside activities too soon – he’ll let you know when he is ready. And try not to say things like, “We moved three months ago – aren’t you over it yet?” That will just make your child feel worse.

If you find that your child is sad, withdrawn, angry, acting out, doing unusually poorly in the new daycare or school, or showing physical symptoms of anxiety and things don’t seem to be getting better even long after the move, consult your child’s daycare provider or school teacher to see if they are noticing the same behaviour, and then consult your child’s physician.

By age three, your child is becoming more and more her own person and you’ll be able to get a real sense of personality. Your child will gain self-esteem and a sense of who she is. Children are not as afraid of being abandoned now, and are generally optimistic and cheerful.

Your child is probably more willing to please you, but that won’t stop him from expressing his own unhappiness and opinions about things. This is actually a step forward, because your child will learn to stand up for himself, so try not to discourage it totally.

Your three-year old will be sociable and capable of some cooperative play, although she still won’t be great at taking turns or sharing. She may spend more time negotiating how to play, and with whom, than actually playing. For example, “I’m not playing with you today, I’m playing with her.”

Your child will be getting better at pretend play, with themes and stories, not just roles. His play may often have a “danger and rescue” theme with him taking the lead as the strong character, like Superman or a lion. Try to give your child the opportunity for play, both alone and with others, as often as possible.

By now, your child will begin to understand simple rules and be better at controlling her impulses. There may be fewer tantrums, because she can express herself and her feelings better with words. She may label feelings, like “I’m mad” or “I’m tired.”

Your child will also begin to understand that other people have feelings too. He will have more understanding of what “no” means, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do what you’re telling him. Setting consistent limits and expectations continues to be important at this stage of development.

Remember, each child is unique. Not all children develop at the same rate in each area, such as movement, communication and relating to others, so this information is meant only as a general guide. If you have concerns about your child’s development, you should consult your child’s doctor.

We often hear that children are like “sponges”, and that they can learn any language easily while they are young. This is true, but only when they have lots of exposure to the language. Children can only absorb as much as they are given. This means that for your child to develop his or her ability to use both languages equally well, your child must hear and eventually speak both languages often.

In some communities, this can happen naturally if both languages have equal status and the child is exposed to various people, in the family and beyond, who speak one language or the other (or both). In other cases, raising a bilingual child requires conscious planning and effort. Both parents will need to agree on their strategies for making this happen.

If one of you speaks English and the other parent speaks a minority language, like French in many parts of Canada, or any other language that is not widely used in your community, it is important to create opportunities for the child to be exposed to that language. Children understand from a young age that one of their languages is not used very much outside their home, and because they naturally have more opportunities to hear and speak English, their ability to use the other language may lag. This can lead to a situation where the child understands the other language, but does not speak it.

Here are some tips to help your child be bilingual:

Speak your own native language to your child. You are a better model for your child when you use the language you know best.

Develop a social network that includes both languages. Attending friendly gatherings, community events and doing other activities with people who speak each language provide opportunities to practice, and reinforce the message that both languages are useful and valued.

Ensure that your child develops a strong foundation in the minority language from a young age by enrolling him or her, if possible, in a child care or preschool where the minority language is the primary or only language spoken.

Research and create a list of services available in the minority language, and give them a preference (e.g. health professionals like doctors and dentists, as well as libraries, movie theatres, community centres, etc). This may involve planning ahead, or driving a little further, but your efforts will greatly benefit your child.

Make sure you have books, videos/DVDs and music in both languages in your home, and that your child is exposed to them. This reinforces your child’s language skills and strengthens your child’s appreciation of each of your cultures.

Arrange visits to and from family members who speak the minority language. Stays abroad or visits from extended family can give a boost to the language that tends to be neglected.

Depending on the languages you speak and the community where you live, some of these options may not be available. The important thing is to create as much balance as possible between the two languages, and to start doing this as early as possible in your child’s life.

Some children are shy. They “hang back” in groups. They need your assistance to learn how to become comfortable talking and playing with others.

The main things to remember when trying to help a child like this to cope with new situations are:

  • Don’t label a child “shy” or introduce your child as a “shy child.” Sometimes children will define themselves as this and never move beyond the label.
  • Don’t push your child into situations that he might find overwhelming. It’s important that you accept your child’s nature and help him develop ways to overcome his shyness – that may take time and patience. Instead of pushing, offer your child opportunities to be involved with others with your support.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by talking about new situations, such as what she will encounter, or who may be there, and talk with her about ways to become involved in groups.
  • Don’t nag your child about being shy. Parents who get irritable or impatient with a child’s shyness may find that their child reacts by being even shyer.

Remember, every child is unique. Some children will be shy, to a greater or lesser degree, all their lives. It’s important for them to feel valued for who they are.

Here are a number of things you can do to make toilet learning easier for both you and your preschooler:

Help your child become familiar with what learning to use the toilet is all about. Before and during the learning process, read stories about using the toilet such as Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel. Explain to your child in simple terms how food and drink become “poo” and “pee,” and what the potty and toilet are used for. Remember, to a little child, a toilet is a big hole that makes a lot of noise. It’s common for some children to think they might fall in and disappear, or that a monster might come out of the toilet after them.

Choose a low-stress time to begin your child’s use of the toilet. Toilet learning works best when both you and your child are relaxed. Avoid times when he is dealing with change, like the arrival of a new baby in the family, a move to a new home, parents’ separation or starting daycare.

Help your child get started by saying that it’s time to start using the toilet like Mom or Dad. Allow her to watch other young children or family members on the toilet, to help her get the idea. Let her have her dolls or stuffed animal pretend to use the potty.

Use a potty chair.It allows children’s feet to touch the floor, helping them to feel more secure. It also allows them to get on and off without having help. Include your child in picking out a potty chair. Let your child just sit on the potty to get used to it, wait at least 1-2 weeks before starting any toilet learning Reading a short story to your child while they sit on the potty may help them to relax as we..

Stay nearby while your child is on the toilet or potty, and don’t make him stay any longer than he wishes to.

Dress your child in loose clothes that he can easily pull up or down. Use training pants or “pull-ups” or cotton underwear once he has been successful for 1-2 weeks.

Help make “going to the washroom” part of your child’s routine, by giving reminders like, “Let’s take a potty break.” Encourage her to use the toilet or potty right after meals, and just before and just after sleep. And when she says she has to go, act fast!

Teach bathroom hygiene. Show your child how to wipe properly after peeing or pooing-girls should wipe from the front to the back. Both boys and girls will need help with this particularly after a bowel movement. Show your child how to wash his hands after using the potty or toilet.

During the process, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Be patient. It may take a child 3-6 months before the diapers are gone for good during the day. Some children learn to control their bladders first others learn to control their bowels first. Bladder control through the night takes longer than day control. It can take several months or even years for your child to stay dry during the night.
  • Expect accidents to happen. Be calm do not overreact or blame, shame or punish your child. Have a change of clothes easily available. Accidents are common until about five years of age — ask any kindergarten teacher! And even when your child is staying dry during the day, naps and nighttime will still pose a challenge — this kind of control will take longer.
  • Also, a child who has learned to use the toilet may start wetting her pants or the bed due to stress or change. This is common and doesn’t usually last long, in terms of daytime dryness, but nighttime bedwetting may take longer to reinstate.
  • Try not to use words like dirty, stinky, smelly – this may make some children self conscious about using the potty or the toilet.
  • It’s very important to compliment your child’s attempts, even if he misses.
  • If your child resists toilet learning, back off and try again later; he may not be ready yet. To not force him this will only make it more frustrating for both of you.

Finally, remember that every child is different, so don’t worry if your child takes longer to be fully toilet trained.

Talk to your doctor:

  • if your child was using the toilet for several months and has now regressed;
  • she is withholding stool;
  • she is experiencing pain or
  • there is blood in the urine or stool; there is a rash;
  • is over 4 years old and not able to control his bowels or bladder
  • or you have other concerns about your child’s toilet learning

The ability for a preschool child to sympathize and empathize with others is influenced by a child’s experiences – how she is treated by those around her, world events that she may hear about, and by the behaviour she observes toward others. A simple definition of empathy is the ability to recognize the emotions that another person is experiencing. Sympathy builds from empathy as a person will be moved to show concern or sadness in response to someone’s emotional state.

For example, following many world disasters we often hear about young children demonstrating in many touching ways their capacity to empathize and sympathize with others in need.

As this capacity develops in your child, you may find your child:

  1. Asks more questions about how certain events or experiences make others feel.
  2. Asks you specifically how certain things make you feel.
  3. Begins to make some conclusions about how others might feel in certain situations.
  4. Begins to show both empathic and sympathetic behaviours during pretend play with a doll or playmate, e.g., says “Don’t cry baby. Mommy will make it better.”
  5. Begins to comfort and express concern for another individual.

Such behaviours are to be celebrated in children. This capacity is fundamental if we want our children to be caring, respectful and generous individuals. While recent world disasters have brought to our attention to warm-hearted examples of preschoolers who have created pictures to raise money for other children, parents need to be aware how this growing ability influences the different areas of a child’s immediate world. The ability to empathize and sympathize affects:

  • A child’s interactions and reactions to others
  • A child’s belief about his /her ability to make a change on someone’s behalf
  • A child’s network of relationships
  • A child’s current and future personality

Our ability as parents to support the development of this capacity is profound. Parents, who show sensitivity and responsiveness to their infants’ and toddlers’ needs, have preschoolers who are more secure and pro-social in their relationships with other children. Here are some other parenting behaviours that contribute to building a child’s capacity for empathy and sympathy:

  • Talk to children about how their behaviour makes other children feel, e.g., if a child hurts another child. Offer suggestions how to rectify the emotional situation;
  • Model caring behaviour toward others so that children can see how it makes other people feel;
  • Take time to discuss emotions and feelings associated with problems or situations; and
  • Take every opportunity to let children know they have the power to make another individual happy by showing them an act of kindness.

According to our experts, the key to effective communication between you and your preschooler is active listening and providing an appropriate positive response. This may sound simple, but sometimes we forget to use these important skills with our young children.

Here are their suggestions to enhance your communication with your child:

  • Active Listening: when your child is speaking with you make sure you are:
    • Looking at your child (“what you are saying is important,” is your message)
    • Eliminate distractions (music, reading, etc)
    • Don’t interrupt (let your child finish what they are saying)
    • Summarize (what you said is…so and so….did I get it right?)
    • Let you child know that you appreciate them sharing their thoughts or concerns with you. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but if your child feels you have heard them it gives them a greater sense of connection with you and actually decreases arguments.
  • Providing an appropriate response: Sometime children will say something that upsets us, or we jump to a conclusion, or we provide a consequence to a child for something that they told us they did. These responses teach children not to communicate with us. Instead, thank your child for sharing with you and, if there is an issue, ask the child what they think would help or should be done. Children are usually pretty fair and understand right and wrong, as well as the need to “fix” things. Instead of responding to their confession with, “That was a bad thing you did, so go to your room,” you might say, “Thank you for letting me know about that. I am proud of you for telling me the truth, but now we need to do something about what you did. What do you think would be fair?”
  • Timing: If you child is in the middle of something, (watching a TV show, brushing his teeth, etc.) you should tell him that you would like to talk about something and wait for him to finish. Remember that if you are busy, or you know you have to leave in a minute, you will not be able to be an active listener.
  • Play: One of the best ways to communicate is while a child is playing a game or with a toy where he is also able to talk with you. Colouring, building blocks or puzzles are some examples. As he is enjoying his activity you can ask him about his day, what was interesting, etc.
  • Create routines: Have a “talk time” every day at the same time. You can schedule one early in the morning, at supper or just before bed, whenever you regularly have a bit of quiet time together. For young children this would only be a few minutes, but it becomes a part of their daily life to have time to communicate with you. At supper, for example, you might have each person say one thing that was good about their day and one thing that was not so good.
  • Go on an adventure: Go for a drive in the car, a hike, visit the museum or beach and talk about what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. You can even do this in your imagination and pretend you are flying in a plane and talk about what you are seeing or doing.
  • Read: Reading books to each other and talking about the story afterward is a wonderful and easy way to foster communication with your child. You can do this with TV shows or movies as well. Ask your child what they think about things that are happening. “What do you think he is feeling right now?” Why do you think she did that?” “How would you feel if they did that to you?” If you are watching a show together don’t have the communication get in the way of your child following the story. If that is happening wait and talk about it once the show is over.

Keep in mind that even if you do all these things, your child may still not want to talk with you. Pressuring children to talk will usually make them clam up even more. Talking about things that your child is interested in will help, but sometimes the key is to wait until you child initiates a discussion. When this happens make sure you are using your active listening skills.

In September, many children will attend school for the first time. They will be expected to be able to communicate, to demonstrate basic knowledge, to socialize with others and to show independence. As a parent, you may wonder if your child is adequately prepared for these expectations in kindergarten. Do play experiences in the early years provide a solid foundation for your child’s school readiness? How can you, as a parent, and other care providers develop children’s academic skills through play? Here are some activities you can enjoy with your child which are examples of how play nurtures the skills that contribute to school readiness.

Communication: Play with Spoken and Written Words

  • Talk to your child often and show her the many ways she can use language. Engage your child in storytelling experiences. As she listens to the words and participates in telling stories, she will learn important conversational skills. Sing songs, recite rhymes and do fingerplays together to help your child to hear the intonation and rhythm patterns of language. Introduce your child to new and interesting words, to help her build her vocabulary. These are ways to teach your child to love language and to enjoy the wonder of words!
  • Show your child how writing can help him to express his ideas. When your child draws pictures, ask him to tell you a story about them and write down his words. This allows him to see the relationship between spoken words and text. Include paper and writing tools among his toys and dramatic play props so he can explore the different ways he sees writing used through his imaginative play (e.g. making lists or creating a birthday card). As he practices printing he will discover that the magical markings he is making have meaning!

Basic Knowledge: Play to Encourage Literacy and Basic Math Skills

  • Read to your child every day. As you enjoy your child’s favourite books together, help her to identify alphabet letters and to recognize and make their sounds. Explore words in the story. What do they mean? Can she find examples of different words around the house? Talk about the story and ask open-ended questions about the characters. Can she guess what might happen next? Invite your child to tell you a story about the pictures and then see how closely her words match the text. Story time can give your child reading skills that last a life time!
  • Build your child’s understanding of math concepts like counting, sorting, patterning, recognizing shapes and measuring through his every day play. Recite rhymes like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe to familiarize your child with number words. When your child plays with toys, count them so he can match the words to actual objects. At tidy up time he can sort the cars, people and blocks into separate baskets. Make necklaces from beads of different shapes, sizes and colours to create patterns. Provide building materials for your child or recyclable items for creating three-dimensional artwork. Make a growth chart so your child can discover how tall he is. Exploring math in ways that are fun will add to his math skills one by one!

Socializing: Play to Support your Child’s Interactions

  • Play and interact with your child every day. Parents are a child’s first playmate, so it is important to make time together for games and make-believe. When you play with your child, you will see things from her point of view and have the chance to follow her lead. She will also learn from your example and have your support as she learns about rules, other people’s feelings and solving problems. Entering the world of your child’s play helps your child to enter the world of school confidently!
  • Encourage your child to engage in dramatic play experiences with his peers. As children interact in an imaginary situation (e.g. doctor’s office), they talk, assign roles, create and follow rules and use symbolic thinking as they decide upon using one object to represent another (e.g. a block is a telephone). These are important social and thinking skills that they will use as they learn to co-operate, take turns and get along with others. Pretend play prepares your child for kindergarten in very real ways!

Being Independent: Play to Build Confidence and Self-Control

  • Help your child to develop strategies for controlling his emotions, behaviours and thoughts. Talk about the way people in storybooks and pictures are feeling, and talk about what might cause those feelings. This will teach your child the words for different emotions and help your child to describe his own feelings and those of other people. When playing games together, be a positive influence if your child gets upset. Help him to be calm, to try to remain positive and to know that he might not win or be first all the time. Being able to calm himself on his own will help your child be more excited about being and playing with friends!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to practice self-help skills. Including clothing in your child’s dramatic play props enables her to dress independently and to become more able to manipulate buttons, zippers, buckles, laces and Velcro. She will feel pride in her ability to do things for herself and develop the confidence to try when faced with new challenges in kindergarten. The success she experiences when learning skills through play will encourage her to achieve success in other learning areas!

There are many things that happen at home every day that help to build a strong foundation for your child’s academic success. Remember, the time you spend playing with your child now is an investment in her future!