All of the recent back to school chat – and subsequent posting of uniformed kids standing in front of doors – has seen me reluctantly consider the future. You see, in two years’ time, that’ll be my just-turned-four-year old posing in her oversized school clobber ready to head off into the big, bad world.
With a mid-August birthday, I’m conscious that she’s going to be nearly a year younger than the older kids. This means that she’s likely to be playing catch up in a number of areas – cognitive, social, emotional etc. – purely because she’s been in the world for a shorter period of time.
There’s very little I can do about that fact now – I’m 99% sure she’s too big to fit back into the missus’ womb. However, everything we do on a daily basis is (hopefully) helping to prepare her for going to school. It’s not like I’m giving her written tests, asking her questions about Henry XIII or making her learn her multiplication tables, but I’m trying to do what I can.
My view is that the more she does and the more she experiences, the more likely she’ll be ready for school. Only time will tell as to whether it works in practice, but the theory sounds pretty spot on to me. For example, we go to toddler classes, we converse (or as much as you can with a two year old), we play with toys, we do messy play, we explore the woods, we watch TV and we read books. Nothing revolutionary, just the chance for her to experience different things in a fun way.
Personally, I think the latter – reading books – is one of the most important things you can do with your pre-schooler. Not only does it give you the chance to spend time together and build a stronger relationship, but studies have shown how beneficial it can be in their development. Improved speech, communication, understanding, concentration, memory, imagination and logic have all been attributed to reading, which in turn increases the chance of success when they go to school.
I think reading is one of the main reasons why Toddler L has become the smart cookie that she is today. Obviously she has top-notch genes (?!), but I associate her good communication, understanding and speech with the fact that we read frequently. This has ranged from baby board books through to classic children’s books through to e-books featuring her favourite Disney characters on the DisneyLife app.
I therefore thought I’d share five tips which have worked well for us when it’s come to encouraging Toddler L to read and building up an interest in books. Here we go:
1) Start Early
Like with most things, creating routine and habit by starting young is important. If your toddler has always known things to be this way, then they’re less likely to question it – well, until they get to the “why?” stage. We’ve been reading with Toddler L since she was a baby, however it’s only been the last nine or so months when she’s actively chosen to pick up a book and bring it to us to read. Obviously the type of book is important – as a baby, black and white board books or touchy feely books are great, which can then be replaced with toddler-specific books which reflect their interests.
2) Don’t Get Frustrated
Reading with a toddler can be a bit annoying. Whether it’s flicking to the back straight away, closing the app before you’re done or deciding to get a different book when you’re only two-pages deep. However, getting frustrated isn’t going to achieve anything. 99.9% of life with a toddler is challenging to say the least, so it’s just something you’ve got to put up with. Instead, go with the flow and keep their experience with books a happy one – even if it means the occasional grimace on your part.
3) Always Have Something To Read
Much like throwing a few toys and crayons into a bag, I always make sure we have an actual book or the tablet with us when we go out. It feels like we’ve done a fair bit of travelling recently – plane, train and car – which is where books, particularly those on on DisneyLife, have come in really handy. The app has meant that we’ve been able to take a load of her favourite Disney characters – Dory, Mickey Mouse and Doc McStuffins – with us to keep her entertained and continuing to learn, but not had to lug around the equivalent weight in physical books. Always having a book with us also gives her a different option – a toddler’s mind changes every other minute, so it’s one last thing for her to tantrum about!
4) Talk About The Book
Something I do quite frequently is use the book as a basis of conversation. So rather than just reading through each page and then closing it, I try to ask questions or point things out as a way of interacting further. For instance, asking her to point out Nemo on a page full of fishy characters or asking her if she remembers going swimming earlier that day. She’s obviously getting benefit out of hearing me read the words, but I find chatting about it engages her more, teaches her different things and reinforces what she already knows. The stuff she knows – which I’ve not asked her before – just shows how switched on the brain of a toddler can be.
5) Read Anything And Everything
It may sound strange, but there’s plenty more in the world to read than books. Everywhere you look there’ll be words and pictures as a result of our information overload society. I’m not saying to replace her favourite book with a tin of soup, more that you can ‘read’ all of the time – posters in the Dentist, street signs down the road or graffiti in a public loo. The point being that it’s the communication and interaction between you and your kid which is important – this can be fostered through reading anything. You might just want to internally read everything before vocalising it to ensure it’s safe for toddler’ ears first.
What’s your view on reading with your children? Do you think it’s an important way to help your kids develop? Do you do anything else to ready your little ones for school? Let me know below!
N.B. I am a DisneyLife Brand Ambassador and this post was created in partnership with DisneyLife who have provided me with a free 12 month DisneyLife membership.