I make no apologies for my pro-play stance…I will always be a promoter and supporter of play; I believe in the power of PLAY! Play addresses all areas of development. One area of importance is play’s impact on literacy. My reasons are experiential and anecdotal, however I believe studies will back up what this preschool teacher, parent, now grandparent has witnessed.
Literacy–the definition can be nebulous. Is it just being able to read and write or does it include listening, speaking and comprehension and other technological skills like key-boarding or coding? I think using ‘communication skills’ is a broad enough umbrella to cover all facets of literacy.
Regardless of the precise definition, literacy in early childhood means laying a foundation. That foundation would include:
- Introducing children to words–through storytelling, songs, books, pretend play dialogue–over and over again; letting them discover words are made up of: syllables, and letters…that there’s something called an ‘alphabet’ and that letters have sounds;
- Realizing words on a page mean something and that a story has a beginning, middle and end.
- Preparing children for writing–emphasis on preparing! Children 3-5 yrs of age should not be expected to write perfectly with a pencil! There’s still a lot of developing that needs to occur before they take pencil to paper and write legibly. Remember movement is a form of learning and movement is a great way for developing the muscles and coordination needed for writing.
THROUGH PLAY children can prepare their bodies for eventual writing. The following activities will work on developing the muscles and/or movements necessary:
- Eye-Hand Coordination: Stringing beads onto cording; placing knobbed puzzle pieces into place
- Fine Motor Muscles of Hand: Manipulating clay or Aromatheraplay™ dough plus putting together Lego Duplos or dressing baby dolls.
- Finger Isolation/Thumb Opposition: Fine-tuning and precision is needed for eventual writing (as well as other work done with the hands) Finger plays are a great way to gain mastery over moving each finger singly and being able to direct the thumb to touch each finger.
- Pincer Strength: Stretching rubber bands over nails on Geoboards; using eye-droppers to
release watercolor onto coffee filter for artwork
- Arm & Shoulder Strength: Painting at an easel or drawing with chalk on a blackboard with big, full arm motions.
- Crossing the Mid-Line/BiLateral Coodination: Music and movement activities are fun and
enjoyable ways to assess how a child’s developing plus to help them develop.
Doing “The Hokey Pokey” or following along in “Simon Says” will get
children moving. To add another layer of challenge try adding bean bags and
singing/moving along to “Throw the Bean Bag”.
Of course, we in the West write from Top to Bottom and Left to Right. In the beginning I wouldn’t get too fixated on that…let your children explore the process. As they become more comfortable, you can direct their starting point to the top left-hand corner.
Listening and speaking skills improve as a young child grows and matures. However, if you have any concerns about hearing or speech delays see your child’s pediatrician straightaway for an evaluation. Even as I say that let me caution, when children are around 4 years of age they transition into the Ferocious Fours. Mind you I LOVED all stages, but I found one aspect of this stage particularly startling. You’re going to think your child has a hearing problem because:
THERE IS NO INSIDE VOICE!
Giving them gentle reminders that you can hear them, that you’re right there and don’t need to talk so loudly will gradually get them more attuned to their own voice’s volume. Playing games that modulate the voice will also help them to recognize what it is to whisper, speak normally or shout. Just know this too, will pass…..
The long-term goal is to have your children love books and love reading–to look forward to diving into a book and getting lost in the story OR maybe writing their own story!
The early childhood years allows for a holistic, comprehensive exposure to concepts; it is perfect for STREAM (Science, Technology, READING, Engineering, Art, Math) activities where children are introduced to something new to them; are able to interact in some way; can form an opinion based on their own experience; and be ready to test that opinion further! Streaming takes on a whole new meaning now doesn’t it?!
Yours in Play!