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The benefits of reading to your toddler

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 05:30pm
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Reading to children has many benefits. It is a great opportunity to bond and enjoy each other's company.

It can also increase their vocabulary, trigger their imagination and expose them to new experiences and concepts. Moreover, reading with children prepares them for learning to read by fostering their appreciation for books and by familiarizing them with print and the structure of stories.

From the first days of life and throughout childhood, you can help instill a love of reading. Start by setting an example. Show your child that reading is an enjoyable activity by reading in his presence and keeping lots of reading material in your home. Read to him often (several times a day!), a special activity that stimulates your child's senses through colourful illustrations to look at, the comforting sound of your voice, your touch and your smell as he snuggles against you.

You can further enhance your child's enjoyment of book-reading by encouraging your child to get actively involved in various ways. For example, toddlers typically enjoy pointing to the various illustrations as you name them, and you can capture your child's imagination by giving the characters their own voice (e.g. a low voice for adults, a high squeaky voice for baby animals, etc.) Older toddlers and preschoolers, for their part, will like talking with you about what they think will happen next in the story and reacting to surprising, funny or scary events in the story. Make eye contact and ask open-ended questions (that can't be answered with "yes" or "no") to initiate the discussion, such as "What do you think Arthur is feeling?" and "What is the little girl doing now?" These actions can make book-reading a more fun, positive and engaging experience for your child by allowing him to play an active rather than a passive role.

It is also important to let your child set the pace. Spend as much or as little time as he wants on each page. Also, give him the opportunity to choose books that interest him. Raid your local library or bookstore so you have a wide selection of books available to choose from and let him decide which book he wants to read, even if you've already read it three times that day! By respecting his choices and supporting his interests in these ways, you will foster his appreciation of books and help him develop a positive attitude towards reading.

Try to choose books that are appropriate for your child's age and level of development. Children's books often come with age recommendations that are based on factors such as the book's length, the level of vocabulary, the topics and concepts covered, and the amount of detail appropriate for the average child's level of development at a given age. However, some children have greater vocabulary levels and are capable of concentrating on a story for a longer period of time than other children of the same age and may master some concepts at an early age. If this is the case with your child, he may be ready for more advanced books. You can try reading books to him that are meant for children who are one or two years older, as long as you feel the topic is appropriate for him and as long as he enjoys these books – don't push him is she is not ready. You can also choose to omit or modify certain parts of the text if you feel it is too complex or too long for his attention span.

Some parents find that their child does not seem to be interested in books. They try to close the book or struggle to get away during story time. If this happens to you, don't force things as this will only frustrate both of you. However, do try again soon. Choose your timing carefully and take into account your child's mood and energy level. Pick a time when your child is relaxed, perhaps just before bedtime, and read in a quiet place where there is no other distraction such as the television or other family members who are engaged in a different activity. Also, suggest books that match your child's interest (e.g. animals, machines, rhymes, etc). He will be more likely to enjoy such books. It's also important to follow your child's lead and to give him plenty of leeway for exploration; don't assume he will understand right from the beginning that the pages have a specific order, or that he will want to read the whole book in one sitting. The important thing is that he has fun, not that he does it the "right" way.

 

For more on reading to with your toddler, check out The Importance of Reading to your Toddler

How does your child feel about reading? Is he excited at reading time or is he distracted and disengaged? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

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Helping your preschooler adjust to a new daycare/school

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 01:51pm
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Adjusting to a new setting takes time. Your preschooler needs to know that you are on his team as he moves towards being comfortable in a new daycare or school.

Here are several ways to help your child adjust to a new daycare or school:

Let your child know that you realize change isn't easy and that you know it takes time to adjust to new places, people and things.

Be supportive and encouraging, not impatient or frustrated.

Explore the new area, or new daycare or school with your child in advance of going there on the first day.

Along with your child, get involved with new groups and activities at daycare or school. This will help you feel more connected to your child's new situation, too.

Help your child find the playgroups and activities she has always liked doing, and try to get her involved, outside of daycare or school.

Where possible, allow your child to stay connected with friends from his old daycare or school.

Ask your child what you can do to help - children often have great ideas about how you can help them feel better.

It would be a mistake to let your child stay home from a new daycare or school just because he is afraid and doesn't want to go. But don't force your child to get involved in outside activities too soon - he'll let you know when he is ready. And try not to say things like, "We moved three months ago - aren't you over it yet?" That will just make your child feel worse.

If you find that your child is sad, withdrawn, angry, acting out, doing unusually poorly in the new daycare or school, or showing physical symptoms of anxiety and things don't seem to be getting better even long after the move, consult your child's daycare provider or school teacher to see if they are noticing the same behaviour, and then consult your child's physician.

Have you had to move your preschooler to a new school or daycare? How did she handle the transition? Share your thoughts below!

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The benefits of play and your baby

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 11:45am
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Children benefit from playing alone, with siblings, with other children and, most importantly, with you. Adults are special partners in play. You encourage your child to concentrate, to try new things and to deal with frustration. Parents are also partners in play when they make their home safe for play and provide a choice of things to play with that are appropriate for each stage of development.

Blocks, boxes, pails, water, playdough, dolls and ordinary things around the house, like pillows and plastic containers are wonderful stimulating playthings. These materials can be used in different ways and at different ages. Many toys advertised on TV have only one use, so they limit the imagination, rather than encourage it. Such toys can be expensive, may soon be forgotten and do little to help your child's development. On the other hand, some toys have many uses and "grow with your child" for a long time.

When playing with your children, let them choose what to play with. Children need to be leaders in their own play, so try not to take over their games or activities. Let your child tell you what he wants you to do, and very gradually add new stimulation, like more things for him to play with. Research has shown that giving a child too many new things to do or play with at once can be overwhelming, and can make learning more difficult.

Video Alert!
Watch our video for tips and ideas on how you can incorporate Comfort, Play & Teach into playtime with your baby. Watch the Playtime video now.

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Helping your baby build close relationships

by Maxine
Posted January 2 2012 03:06pm
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Babies are born with the need to form close relationships with caring and responsive adults - what childhood experts call "attachments." If children don't have the opportunity to develop close, uninterrupted attachments with nurturing adults during the early years, young children will find it more difficult to learn, to become confident and to trust others.

Babies can form consistent attachments with the people who are around them most. These few important relationships create a sense in your child of what kind of world this is and what her place is in it.

A secure attachment to caring adults helps your child learn to adapt to circumstances more easily, and to overcome difficult situations throughout his life. This kind of attachment helps your child to believe the world is a friendly and safe place. Having a parent or caregiver who learns to understand and respond to a baby's signals, such as picking baby up and comforting him when crying, will help to form a secure, healthy attachment.

Relax, and don't worry about making mistakes. It will take some time for you to learn what your baby is trying to communicate. All parents learn by trial and error. As long as your baby knows she can count on you most of the time, she'll be amazingly flexible and forgiving.

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