Last Updated 16th Feb 2021
It is said a child’s ability to learn begins from birth with a baby’s billions of brain cells (neurons) waiting to be stimulated via its senses. The more positive experiences a child receives, the more pathways develop between his/her brain cells hence laying the foundation to early literacy and moreover towards a better success in future learning.
So what is early literacy development? It’s basically starting your child’s path to learning from a young age via everyday interactions. The learning development activities we undertake with our children can begin from birth. Activities such as singing songs, reading books, telling stories and simply talking to one another, all have a positive effect towards literacy development. Learning about sounds, words, phonetics, language and numeracy are all skills needed as children develop their path to learning.
There are several different ways in which a child learns but research has shown that two of the major ways are via hand-eye coordination and visual learning
Hand-eye coordination describes the ability of your body’s visual receptors to process information received via the eyes and to use this information to direct it to movements of the hands. It’s a complex neurological process best encouraged from an early age.
Hand-eye coordination works to assist with the development of motor skills. These are defined as fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills. The development of hand-eye coordination builds as your child grows. As newborns, their hand movements are mainly reflexive in nature but as they grow these movements become more purposeful. Fine motor skills are achieved when children learn to use their smaller muscles such as those in their hands, fingers and wrists. They use these muscles when eating, writing, holding small items, etc. Gross motor skills use the larger muscles of the arms, legs and torso which allow actives such as standing, walking, going up and down stairs, running, swimming, etc.
There are many age appropriate hand-eye coordination activities you can do with your child at home that can serve to develop their early literacy development. Some of these include:
playing & building with blocks, stringing beads, playing Simon Says, puzzles, batting at a balloon, kicking/catching a ball, connect the dots. These are just to name a few. The key to making this a success is to make it as enjoyable as possible for your child as well as keeping the activities age appropriate. Otherwise it can lead to frustration, negativity and build a lack of confidence for both parent and child alike.
Early literacy development practices don’t have to be structured and rigid. In fact, children learn far better in a calm, relaxed and enjoyable environment where activities flow naturally and form part of their everyday tasks.
Here are five examples of early literacy practices you can enjoy with your child.
1. Talking – Whether talking to your child directly or amongst other family members, your child is learning about language by listening to others talk. Hearing words leads to them understanding their meaning as well as in what context those words are used.
2. Singing – Songs slow down language and break down the sounds and syllables in words. In particular repeating them over and over allows a child to practice the rhythm and rhyme, both of which help in the development of language skills.
3. Reading – The single most important way to help children and their early literacy development is reading books. They are never too young to start reading to. You will find that in time as they become more accustomed to the stories being read they will begin to follow the words themselves or finish the sentences off. Sometimes they will retell the story in their own words which demonstrates an ability to understand language. It is also an activity which can create a very nurturing bond between you and your child.
4. Writing – Writing connects the spoken and printed word. It develops those fine motor skills we mentioned earlier and believe it or not scribbling counts. In your child’s eyes they’re well and truly words!
5. Playing – Encouraging playtime is one of the most (if not THE most) important activity. Whether they play alone or together with you, it stimulates imagination and encourages expressions of thoughts and emotions. The activity they choose is not important (provided it’s safe of course!) as long as they are having fun and their imagination and learning is being utilised.
The key and best thing you can do for your child’s early literacy development is to engage with them and help them build a foundation on which further learning can grow. Activities enjoyed and valued by children as part of their everyday lives often include those in which their parents or close family members are a part of. They flourish in an environment that provides positive and meaningful conversation and play. And best of all it creates memories to be treasured forever!