Most moms I know don’t have heaps of free time to devote specifically to fostering literacy with your kids.
Shh, Supermom who seems to have time for stitching clothes from scratch with one hand while creating award winning cakes with the other, I’m not talking about you.
For us mere mortals, even the bedtime story can sometimes get rushed or bumped for more pressing matters. We all know we need to nurture our kids’ minds as we do their bodies, but setting aside a lazy afternoon to indulging in deep, brain-growing activities just doesn’t happen.
Kids’ abilities to remember experiences, to make connections and to integrate their thoughts and emotions are not the same as yours and mine. Their brains continue to grow and evolve throughout childhood and adolescence. In fact, our human brains aren’t considered “mature” until we are somewhere in our twenties (and, reflecting on some twenty-somethings I’ve known, a case can be made for brain maturity occurring even later than that). The best way to help kid’s mental development is to help your kids exercise their brains as they would a muscle. Here are some great things you can do on-the-go that can keep your kids thinking and communicating while life rolls on by.
Help your children practice remembering things, prioritizing, and expressing themselves by telling you two truths and a lie about their day. Play while walking to the park, eating dinner, or strolling the grocery store aisle. Have your child tell you three things about your day, two of which are true and one made up (in any order), then you (or a sibling) can guess which statement is the lie. This teaches kids to reflect on their experiences and it exercises their ability to remember things from the day. As kids get older and better at the game, you can extend the time frame — two truths and a lie about last weekend, last summer or last family trip. This little activity also enhances communication and story telling ability. The first few times you play, the lie may be glaring obvious (“A dragon ate my teacher”) but you’ll be surprised at how soon kids learn how to make a story believable — also a good literacy skill. Children are always excited to pick out the “lie” in others' stories as well, so be sure to tell two truths and a lie about your own day.
This can be as simple as throwing out a word and having a little one say a rhyme (cat/hat, etc.) or as complicated as coming up with a mini-rap about a shared event (that soccer game was took its toll until I scored the magic goal; the crowd jumped up and raised their hands, craziness ensued in the stands — ok, I’m far from Kanye, but you get the idea). I’ve played this game with my students and they began making up rhymes all the time — even months after I introduced the idea. I’ll admit, some days, it drove me crazy, but I know how good it is for kids to play with words. Having fun with language and understanding how words fit together fosters strong oral and written communication.
Creativity helps with everything from solving arguments, to beating the next level in a video game, to coming up with a great essay topic. This game can be played anywhere, and inspires creativity, communication and vocabulary building. It may seem overwhelming for a child to come up with a whole story with plot and characters and all that other stuff, but most kids can make up a title before you hit the next red light. With this activity you can get young minds thinking about what titles mean and how they grab readers’ attention. Have fun making up titles for stories your kids may want to read or star in or come up with titles inspired by things you’re driving by. Or just ask your kids what they think the funniest, scariest or most interesting story title would be. There are no limits. The goal is just to stimulate creativity and to have some fun. Promoting literary thinking is the happy by-product.
The essence of literacy is simply communication — it’s all about getting your message across and understanding the messages of others. And if literacy is just communication then, really, haven’t you been helping your kids with this subject from the day they were born? So, keep up the good work!
Have fun and enjoy the journey!