Communication, language and literacy is the most important skill you can give to your children, it underpins every other learning experience they will have throughout their lives.
Without being able to communicate successfully, children will struggle to make the most of the experiences that come their way.
There is a lot you can do to help your child develop effective communication and you don’t need to spend money to do anything about it.
Talk with your child at every opportunity, as you eat together, as you go shopping and whilst watching television. Encourage your child to talk about what they’re doing, what they think they’ll do next, how they’re planning to move their play on.
Ask your child how they’re feeling, what they think about your plans for the day, what they’d like to do at the weekend and why?
These are really important skills. When they express an opinion that’s different to yours talk about why your ideas are different and work out a way that you can both get what you want out of your plans.
Children need to learn that its okay to have ideas and opinions that are different to other people’s, but they also need to learn how to deal with those times when their ideas and opinions differ.
Make time to talk to each other every day, before bed is a good time, as you can make everything quiet, sit together and talk about the day that has just passed and about what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Let children see you writing – on paper and on computer. As you write, explain that the marks you’re making have a meaning (they tell you what to buy at the shops, they tell the postman where to deliver a letter, they tell your boss your plans on how to carry out a project).
Let children have paper and pencils/pens to do their own “writing”. Once they have made some marks, ask them what they’ve written and write what they say underneath. Keep these pieces and let them trace over your writing if they want to.
This is a technique called “language experience”, and you’ll probably see it used at your child’s school. The idea is that your child will be more motivated to learn if they recognise the experiences and the language they are learning.
Help your child to use the computer and especially to learn where the letters are on the keyboard, 5 or 10 minutes a day will be fine, this is a really valuable skill for school.
10 to 15 minutes reading a day is really important for children, but don’t feel this has to mean reading all the words on every page of the book. Children need to learn how to look after books, how to hold them the right way up and turn the page when you get to the end.
Have a look at the cover of the book, what can you see? Does it give you any clues to what might happen in the story?
Look at the first page and see whether the book was dedicated to anyone, who might that person be and why might the author have written for them?
Remember to look at and talk about the pictures, you can even make up your own story using the pictures as your cue. Help your child to recognise any words or letters and remember to give lots of praise.
By spending a little time with your child talking, writing and looking at books each day, you’ll be providing them with the essential building blocks for their learning throughout life.