Between the ages of two and four, children learn language at an amazing speed. They are learning new words daily; when children turn two, they normally have a vocabulary of around 150 words. When they are three, their vocabulary has exploded to around a 1,000 words! (To read more about their increasing vocabulary, click here.) Not only are children this age learning new words, their grammar and pronunciation are improving as well. Also, during this time most children will begin to learn letters, and will be able to recognize and begin writing them.
One way that you can help your child’s language development is by introducing and focusing on a letter a week. This provides a sustained opportunity to focus on language development, and will help pronunciation as well as prepare them to read and write.
Choose a consistent time each week to introduce the new letter. If you hold a weekly family home evening, incorporate the weekly letter into that. Or if you have a bedtime routine, introduce the new letter on Monday night, and then reinforce it each night at bedtime. It doesn’t really matter when you choose as long as it is a time each week when you can give your child your full attention.
Go through the alphabet in order. Start the first week with the letter A, and slowly work your way through the alphabet. Yes, focusing on only one letter a week means that it will take a long time to make it to the end, but it also means that you have time to focus on each letter, and that it’s slow enough to be a natural and enjoyable pace for your child. If they are interested in other letters, go ahead and talk about them too, but keep your weekly focus letter.
Try to make it interesting for your child. Use different activities each week to make it a special and fun time. For example, if the new letter of the week is B, fill a basket with things that start with B (household examples include: buttons, bottles, books, bread, bananas, bows, bowls, etc.). Buy letter-shaped cookie cutters and bake and decorate cookies shaped like your weekly letter. Go on a walk that week and look for things beginning with that letter, and make sure to look for the letter itself on street or shop signs. Give them a page of writing and a highlighter, and let them look for and circle all of their weekly letter. Be creative. There are a lot of websites with ideas for teaching letters (don’t be afraid to look at teaching sites); for a website with lots of ideas on introducing letters, click here.
Throughout the week, look for opportunities for your child to practice saying the letter’s sound, recognize the letter written down, and try writing it themselves.
Make sure to stay positive. Always praise your child’s efforts and encourage them.
Working on a letter a week this way really can help your child’s language development, and it can create a fun bonding activity as well.
For more ideas on how to help your child’s language development, click here.