Encourage your child’s love of reading at a young age: read, read, read! Early literacy skills can come from more than just reading. Talking and singing to your child are great ways to promote literacy and language development. Try these tips and activity to promote early literacy and make reading fun!

Early Literacy & Reading Tips

  • Point out objects and state their names as you flip through a book. As your child gets older point to an object and ask him what it is.
  • If you notice a sing-songy rhythm to a book, tap a beat. Being able to keep a beat is linked to the rhythm of speech and is closely connected to one’s reading ability.
  • With verbal children, ask open ended questions and make predictions. Start by looking at the front of the book and asking what they think the story will be about. Before turning a page, occasionally ask, “What do you think will happen next?” Pull in a bit of emotional development by asking how a character may feel and why.
  • Count whenever you have the opportunity in a book. In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, count the fruit as he eats through each of them. It can’t hurt to work on math at the same time! It’s believed that a child’s language development supports both literacy and numeracy skills, so their success is often intertwined.
  • If there are obvious shapes in the book, point them out. “The moon is a circle… the ice cream cone is a triangle.” Did you know identifying shapes helps children to later recognize letters?
  • Repetition is key! Read books over and over; pause at a word to see if your child can fill it in. Even with the book is new to you, pause at a word that rhymes. Do they recognize rhyming words?
  • Songs tell stories! Sing often and even act out the story it tells with puppets, a felt board, or even their favorite stuffed animals. Singing allows children to hear different parts to a word which later will help them sound out words when learning to read.
  • Now turn your reading into play. Children learn through experience and can expand on their knowledge in a book by retelling the story in their play. Try the activity below.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Sensory Bin

  • Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. You can ask open ended questions such as, “What do you think he will eat next?” or “What is happening in the cocoon?”
  • Everytime your child asks to read it again, focus on something new. Maybe the second time you read it, you point out shapes. The third time you could ask your child to name the food.
  • The night before create a sensory bin and take it out after reading through the book.

What to Include in the Sensory Bin:

  • Fill a bucket with colored penne pasta. I used green, red, and yellow to match the caterpillar.
  • Go to your child’s play kitchen and fill the sensory bin with as many food items from the book and then add some more for fun.
  • Add spoons or large, plastic jumbo tweezers. These items help work on not only fine motor development, but also hand-eye coordination.
  • Build a very hungry caterpillar for your child to feed. Use an old yogurt container. Cut a hole in the top for the mouth. Using foam or construction paper cut out a red circle as the head, two green antennas, and eyes. See the picture above for guidance.
  • For added fine motor development, have pipe cleaners out to string pasta on and make your own caterpillar!

Expand on Language, Math, & Early Literacy:

  • Using a silly voice, pretend to be the caterpillar and ask for different pieces of food, “I’m hungry, feed me the pear.” This works on receptive language development. To practice expressive language development start the play by dropping in a watermelon and saying, “Mmm, yummy watermelon.” Do this with a few different pieces of food and then tell your child, “Your turn!” Verbal toddlers often times will mimic you and try the same skill.
  • Together, count aloud the food that you feed to the caterpillar. If your child is working on another language, count in Spanish or French as well!
  • Can you play out the book by memory? “On Monday, the very hungry caterpillar ate through…” See if your child can fill in blanks. You can help by using made up rhyming words, “bapple.” Children often know this isn’t the correct word and will laugh before filling in the correct word.

Parents, share this activity with your nanny to set up at nap time for an afternoon of early literacy fun and learning. To learn more about early childhood milestones, by age, check out our online class Early Childhood Milestones: Caring for Young Children. All nannies who are placed with a family through Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny are gifted three free online classes!

About The Author

Kelsey Dickson has over 15 years of experience working with children as a nanny, preschool teacher, and now a mother. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education and is a Certified Potty Training Expert. At Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny she is the eLearning and Social Media Manager. Check out our online childcare classes, such as Baby Sign Language and Sleep Coaching 101! In her free time she enjoys gardening with her children, going for walks with her family, and discovering local wineries in New England.