4 Ways You Can Build Pre-Reading Skills in Young Children

 4 Ways You Can Build Pre-Reading Skills in Young Children

1. Read to your children every day!

Reading to your babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners is the single most important activity you can do to build their pre-reading skills. 

So if you get NOTHING else from this post, get this: Go curl up with your kiddos and a great book!

If you read to your child for 20 minutes each day, your child will hear 1,800,000 words each year. If you only spend 1 minute reading, that means the child is only hearing 8,000 words each year. That is a HUGE difference.

Do you have a wiggly toddler who doesn't like to sit on your lap to listen to a story?

That is perfectly fine! I had a couple of those in my house, too. You can read to your child wherever they are! They will still hear all of this rich vocabulary!
  • Read to your child while they are in their high chair eating a snack.
  • Read to your child while they are taking a bath.
  • Listen to audiobooks in the car.

2. Let your babies and toddlers play with books.

Children need opportunities to hold and manipulate books. They need opportunities to open and close covers. They need to learn how to turn pages. Knowing how to "orient a book" is an important pre-reading skill. Children learn which side is up and the direction your turn the pages.

Of course board books are a great option, but I also love these indestructible books.

Does your child have trouble turning one page at a time?

You can hack your book by adding foam stickers to the pages. This creates space between the pages, making it easier for little fingers to access.

3. Call attention to words by pointing to them as you read.

Pointing to the words as you ready children helps them build print concept awareness.
  • This shows that we read the words and not the pictures.
  • This shows that we read from top to bottom.
  • This shows that we read from left to right.
  • This shows that each word is separate.

4. Give in and read the book again :)

All children do this. They beg for you to read and reread their favorite books. They may even ask you to read it again before you even say “the end.”
This helps your child understand the structure of the book better. It helps them to retell the story or recall facts. Multiple exposures to the same book helps your child build their vocabulary.

My oldest daughter wore out this book: “Raindrop Plop!” I don’t even know why she loved it so much. I think I still have it memorized.

How to stop saying NO to your children

 Do you feel like a broken record?

No, put that down.

No, out of your mouth.

No running.

No hitting.

No screaming.

For many children hearing NO is a behavioral trigger.  This means that not only do adults have to try to stop the original misbehavior (the one they were saying NO to), but now adults have to help calm a child who is now having a meltdown or being defiant.

Think about it....do you like being told NO?  I know I sure don't!

How do we stop saying "NO?" What can we do instead?

Change the Environment:

Look at your space.  What can you move or take out to prevent the misbehavior?  

Can you remove all the small Legos that your child puts in her mouth?  
Can you put up your breakable decorations? 
Can you arrange your furniture to prevent runways?
Is there a toy that your child ALWAYS takes away from a sibling?  Can you get another?

Remember it is much easier to change the child's environment versus changing the child.

Write down why you are saying no:

Once you know what you are saying NO to, you will have  starting point for change.  
Write these on a piece of paper.  Type them into the notes section on your phone as you say them.  

Write down positive alternatives:

What are positive alternatives?  They are directives that tell the child what you want them TO DO. They are written in a positive manner.  

For example: 
"Nice touches" instead of "No hitting"
"Walking feet" instead of "No running"
"Use your inside voice" instead of "No screaming"
"Hands down" instead of "No!  Do not pull her hair!"

Super Easy Valentine Heart Sensory Table Invitation: Dollar Tree Materials


Valentine's Day is almost here!  Add these easy Dollar Tree Materials to your sensory table for an open-ended play invitation.


Pink table scatter hearts
Red table scatter hearts
Foam conversation heart stickers
Red felt hearts
Pink felt hearts
Plastic tongs
Cardboard heart box

I also included the lid from a popcorn tin and 2 heart cake pans.

Sensory table invitations are so easy!  

All you do is present the materials and see what children do with them!

Brickston was very interested in counting out the hearts and making arrays.  He also sorted by color.  

Go here to see the video!

How Much Time Should You Devote to Playing with your Children?


I have been asked this question several times, so I thought I would make a video about it!  You can watch it by going to this link or watching below.  

We all know that I am an advocate for play!

But that also does not mean that you have to be the sole entertainer for your child.  When I visited the preschool classrooms in Reggio Emilia, I was a little shocked at how little the teachers played WITH the children.  The children were definitely engaged in very sophisticated play.  But they were engaged in play with other children. That is what we want, right?  Social skills is one of the greatest benefits of preschool and play.  The teachers in that setting were acting as the facilitators.  

Did children need items or materials for their play?  The teachers were there to make it happen.  

It is okay for children to be bored. 

Boredom creates the necessity for creativity.  Boredom is a good thing.  Often children ask us, as parents, to play with them because they are bored.  We can help children create a list of things they like to play.  The next time they come to us and say they are bored, we can have them choose something from their list. 

Play with other children is more important than play with an adult.

I know in our world right now, playdates are not happening as frequently.  You may not have access to preschool, either.  But if you are able to arrange for play with similar aged peers, do it!  Playing with other children gives your child the opportunity to practice important social emotional skills.  When you are playing Barbies with your child, you may not insist that YOU get to be the mom or you are "not playing anymore." The friend next door may do this.  And it presents a wonderful opportunity for children to problem solve and fix social conflicts on their own.  

You can't quit cold turkey.

If you have been devoting entire days to playing Calico Critters with your child, you won't be able to stop overnight.  Instead the next time you play, find ways to exit and re-enter the play episode.  
Start with small increments at first.  Just take 2 minutes away, and then check back in.  Over time you can increase the time you step out of play.

Exiting during car play:

Take a car and tell the child "I have to drive to the next town to pick up some materials.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

You can even set a timer for the child if they are anxious about you leaving.  When the timer goes off, drive your car back over to check in.

If the child is having trouble sustaining play, give them an item to EXTEND the play episode.  Give the child a toilet paper roll and ask them what they could use it for.  The child may decide to use it as a tunnel.  They may pretend it is a tree.  The options are endless, but let them do the thinking. 

Journal it!

At first it may seem like you are not making any progress getting your child to play with peers or play independently.  Stay the course!  I encourage you to jot down some notes about how your child is doing.  I think over time you will begin to see the progress!

Among Us in Real Life

 Do your children play Among Us? 

Be honest, did you even know what the game is? I didn't for the longest time.  It is an game app that seems to be all the rage right now.  My middle schooler is playing it, but so is my kindergartener.  The premise is to prepare your spaceship to launch by completing tasks.  But among the crew is an imposter who goes around killing the crewmates.  I know it sounds dark.  It reminds me of that winking game we used to play at slumber parties.  Remember you all sat in a circle, if you got winked at...you fell backwards.

Well, all of that to say my children created their very own Among Us game to play in real life.  The cool kids call this IRL.  

I honestly have no idea on the REAL Among Us rules, but this is how my children had us play.  It was so much fun.  Encourage your kids to put down the device and play IRL with you.

What you need: 

-Slip of paper for each player. All the slips should say 'crewmate' except one.  The one should say imposter.

-List of tasks that each person must complete
-Tasks set up around the house
The kids set up random things like: Pick up all the trash, push in all the chairs, memory matching game, etc.

-Flashlight (this is optional, but added to fun to play in the dark).

How to play: 

1. Give everyone a list of which number of tasks they must complete.
2. Have everyone draw a slip of paper.  No one can tell who the imposter is.  
3. Begin completing the tasks around the house.
4. The imposter slowly and quietly taps crewmates.  The crewmate who is tapped has to lay down where they are tapped. 

5. When crewmates suspect the imposter, they can say "I call a meeting!" and everyone meets up in the kitchen.  The crewmate states the case and everyone votes.  If they are right, and vote for the imposter...the game is over!
6. OR the game is over when the imposter gets everyone.

Bingo Family Game Night

Bingo Family Game Night is a great way to spice up your weekend!  Especially if you are stuck inside with nowhere to go!

This fun  activity will only cost you the price of the Bingo game (affiliate link) and a few Dollar Tree prizes.  In total I spent $25.  $15 for the Bingo game and $10 in prizes.

The children took turns being the Bingo caller.  This is a great opportunity to build listening skills.  Sometimes we had to repeat the letter and number SEVERAL times. 
Even our youngest played along.  She just needed someone to point to the number to cover.  Picking up the little markers requires fine motor control!
Winners got the Dollar Tree prizes!  I threw each prize in a simple brown paper bag before we got started.  Literally zero prep!
Some of our prizes: 
  • Toy guitar
  • Little light brite type toy
  • Paint with water books  
  • Flavored chapsticks
  • Fake fingernails (both my girls go crazy for these)
  • Movie theater boxed candy

Are you ready to play BINGO?

Four Dollar Tree Items for Play Centers

 These four Dollar Tree items will make a great addition to your play centers. 

My son and I headed to my favorite store this week in hopes of finding some cute Valentine items for our play centers.  Unfortunately we didn't find as much as we were hoping.  Do not worry, we will hit up another store soon :)

We did find some great items that are great for all seasons of the year. 

Foam Alphabet Puzzle

Obviously, puzzles are great for fine motor skill development.  But you can use this puzzle in so many other ways. 
  • Take out the letters and throw them in the bathtub!  They will float and stick to the side of the tub.
  • Place the letters in your sensory bin.  Children can dig through the rice, sand, or pasta to find the letters and match them to the puzzle board.  You can use different utensils (tongs, spoons, tweezers) to grasp the letters.
  • Use the puzzle board as a stencil in your writing center
  • Dip the letter pieces into tempera paint and use them as stamps

Wooden Shape Puzzle

Once again this inset puzzle is great for fine motor development, but we can use it in many different ways. 
  • Empty all the shape pieces into a basket for loose parts play.  You may want to buy a couple puzzles so that you have more pieces.  
  • Use the puzzle board as a sorting tray for small pieces.  You will have 9 compartments.
  • The puzzle board can be used as a cupcake tin for pretend cooking.


Sand Timer

Brickston was very excited to find this, because we lost our timer from one of our games.  You can make anything a game by adding a timer.

  • Use the timer to show children when to give someone else a turn.
  • Set the timer to see how many of the letters or shapes your child can find in the sensory table.
  • Set the timer to see how many jumping jacks your child can do. 
  •  Place the timer in your child's calm down kit/corner.  Watching a sand timer can be soothing.


Self-Opening Scissors

You know I love these scissors for beginners!  The little "lift assist" lever helps the scissors to self-open..

  • Create a cutting box.  Head over to this post to see how I made an open-ended cutting box for children. 

  • Cut playdough

  • Hang a piece of wrapping paper between a doorway and have your child cut the paper.  This will help your child to develop correct thumbs up scissor holding. 


    How else would YOU use these items?