Friday, December 02, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Three: Communicating

Speaking in "parantese" to babies might sound silly, but it actually catches their attention better than if you spoke to them as if they were adults.  Babies pay attention to tone and facial expressions and are learning about emotional cues and how we communicate as we talk to them.  They learn to differentiate sounds and detect words as they listen.  Babies learn what we think is important for our words, looks, and gestures.

To encourage literacy skills early on, emphasize:
- expression 
- understanding
- enjoyment
- connecting visual with verbal
- the concept of the written word (reading left to write, that there's a beginning and end, a top and bottom, and space around each word)
- interacting with books that you read to them by talking about and discussing it as well as reading it to them
- talking about their ideas
- phonemic awareness (learn to recognize letters and sounds)
- a variety of forms of expression (including drawing and painting)

How to promote communication:
1.  Create an environment in the home where words, reading, and listening are important
2.  Narrate your children's experiences with talking, looks, and gestures
     - describe what's going on around them
     - give names to what you are looking at
     - play word games like pat a cake and peekaboo
3.  Use "extra" talk that goes beyond the here and now and the necessary
     - what if...
     - remember...
     - what do you think...
4.  Relate your talk to what is interesting to them
5.  Tell stories about your life and have them tell stories about theirs
6.  Read (joyfully) with your child
     Suggestions for infants and toddlers:
     - get books they can't destroy by chewing them and books that are tactile
     - point out pictures
     - get books with a catchy refrain they can remember
     - create a tradition of story time
7.  Play with word sounds
     - Guessing games with the first letter of words
     - Clap syllables while you say the sounds
     - Help them blend word sounds to make words
     - Alphabet game: children think of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet and you try to guess it
     - Have them practice reading when you're shopping
     - Play with tongue twisters (like "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.")
8.  Encourage them to write
     - take dictation when they're too young to write
     - encourage pretend writing
     - have them keep journals

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