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         Communication, Language and Literacy - 3 to 4 years

Your child can now communicate in verbal and non-verbal ways. It is through a hand gesture, a nod of the head, or by pointing to som​ething that your child expresses his thoughts and feelings to you. He is starting to understand simple words and interpret print. This is the period when children begin to develop their reading and writing skills.

By now, your child can say his name and age fluently. At age four, he can speak in five- to six- word sentences and use complete sentences. Introduce new words to him to build his expanding vocabulary. The more he talks, the more he learns and understands!

He will be asking all kinds of questions to find out about the world around him. Embrace this period of curiosity and engage your child in daily conversations. You could ask him about his day at school or tell him about your day at work. This is a great time to build on what he has learnt about books, print and alphabets.

Your child can now turn pages in a book, draw stick figures and copy easy shapes like circles and squares. He may even start writing some capital letters. Don’t be too worried if he mixes up capital letters and small letters. It’s perfectly normal!


Learn through touch

Learn 'ABCs' through the sense of touch! Draw or print the letters of the letters of the Alphabet on cards. Cover these letters with lines of glue. You can stick yarn, wool or twine or pieces of macaroni over the printed letters. After the glue has dried, let your child trace the raised letters with her fingertips.
Ask "W" questions!

​​Ask the 5 "W" questions! Your child's word bank is expanding. She has a larger vocabulary and is beginning to understand the meaning of words. Hold simple conversations about everyday events with your child using 'who', 'what', 'where', 'when', and 'why' questions. Make it fun and have your child make up the questions.
~ Dr Pamela Sharpe, Early Childhood Consultant
Play a "yes-no" game! Start a conversation by asking your child simple yes-no questions such as "Are you a boy/ girl?", "Do you have black hair?". For older children, encourage him to make up his own questions and try to fool you into answering wrongly! Play a "Yes-No" game!

Make scrapbooks of familiar things

Make a scrapbook of favourite and/or familiar things and talk to your child about them! Introduce new vocabularly through describing the objects. For older children, make silly pictures by mixing up the pictures (e.g. gluing a banana to a cat). Talk about what is wrong with this picture and how you can fix it together!
Play a scavenger name hunt! Write the letters of her name on post-its or prepare cut-outs of these letters. Hide them around the house and let your child find them! Provide clues if it gets too difficult for your child. Sit together with her and piece the letters that she had found to form her name!
Play a scavenger name hunt!

Use your finger to follow the words as you read!

Use your finger to follow the words as you read! This will help your child understand how the sentence progresses and understand relationships between written words and spoken language as well as punctuations. For instance, how a comma or full stop represents a pause in the story.
Converse in good English! Have conversations with family and friends in grammatically correct sentences and introduce new vocabulary in the context of the conversation. Expose your child to picture books. Read and re-read them! Introduce rhymes and songs to boost language development!
~ Ms N. Pushpavalli, Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten
Converse in good English!

Play "I Spy" games with your child!

Play games to support language development. For instance, simple games that require your child to guess an object or place from a description of it: "I spy with my little eye, something that has many wheels and can carry many passengers!" You can also get your child to count, for example, all the red vehicles he can see during a car or bus ride. This will expand and extend language development.
~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre
Make daily conversations! Daily conversations with young children should revolve around what matters to them. Children will only be too happy to share with the adults the happenings of their day. For very young children, asking specific questions are important -- for example, instead of asking "What did you do in school/ centre today?", rephrasing the question to "What did you do today that you liked the most?" could elicit a lot more content for sharing and dialogue.
~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute, and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre
Make daily conversations with your child (Three to four years old)

Have conversations while grocery shopping. Regular routines like grocery shoppinng are an excellent opportunity to engage children in conversations about the menu for the week or a specific dish. Have them pick and choose the ingredients/ items with you and talk about these as you drive/ walk to the supermarket. Involve your child when you are preparing the meal. Conversations will be rich.

~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre

Grocery shopping

Make simple books together. This allows your child to express himself creatively and gives him the opportunity to create a story with you. Sit with him and offer help when needed. Allow your child to talk as he draws and writes. It is the process, not the end product that counts. Provide scissors, glue, markers, coloured pencils and even materials like fabric and foil. He can use these to decorate his book.
Make simple books together!

Draw and write every day!

Draw and write every day. Make it part of daily life. For example, before going to the supermarket, check out the items you would need to buy with your child. You can write or draw pictures of the groceries you need. At the supermarket, point out the items and put them in the basket together. This will help your child understand and relate the words to the groceries.
Extend your child's learning

Extend her learning. By using familiar rhymes, get your child to draw the scene of his favourite rhyme or character such as 'Humpty Dumpty' or 'Little Miss Muffet'. These nursery rhymes can also build on your child's vocabulary by teaching her new words and phrases. Further extend her learning by acting out the rhymes.
Alphabet song and chart

Sing the Alphabet Song with a chart. This will help your child identify the letters of the alphabet. You can also start introducing things beginning with the letters. Make it fun by playing the game " spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter 'a' in the room".

Provide a good variety of materials. With thick crayons, colour pencils, markers and paper, you can both make cards for birthdays or special occasions such as Fathers' Day, Christmas, Chinese New Year or Hari Raya, Discuss with your child what he would like to write on the card. Write out the words in print for your child to copy. 

Provide a variety of materials

Drawing and writing. Keep stationeries, drawing paper and notebooks where your child can access easily. Encourage him to practise writing his name or draw pictures. Ask him to talk about his creation when he is done. This allows him to practise his communication and fine motor skills.


Use storybooks and songs. Make Mother Tongue language story books and songs accessible in your home. Read stories and learn songs and nursery rhymes in your Mother Tongue together with your child. You can even do role-play in your sing-along songs. This enables your child to acquire a second language while having fun! 


Use storybooks and songs for role play

The Mother Tongue language is just as important. Provide a conducive environment to encourage your child’s acquisition of both her first and second languages. Introduce words and read to her in both languages. Let her see and hear you speak in both languages. By seeing and hearing how the languages are used, your child will eventually learn to use them herself.

Add humour! Children love rhymes, repetitions and jingles. Words like, “itsy, bitsy” or “wiggle, giggle” make children laugh. Incorporating rhymes and rhyming words into dialogues and play can help your child become aware of how some word sounds are similar. When your child is ready, take turns with her to think of as many pairs of rhyming words.

Engage in pretend play. Your child can pretend to be one of the characters, or go to the places in a book he has read. He may choose to use phrases in the book or make up his own lines. This enhances language skills and imagination. To separate reality from fantasy, bring your child back to real life after the activity.

Encourage your child to read with you. ​Let your child experiment with reading aloud or softly and making different sounds at varying volumes. For example, the car went “beep, beep” loudly and the little mouse scrambled across the living room quietly. He will start to develop phonological awareness and learn about word-sounds through these interactive reading activities.

Be animated and have fun. Use different voices for different characters, include body and hand gestures when telling stories to your child. If the duck in the story goes “quack, quack, quack”, use your hands to shape a duck’s beak. Use a deeper voice for a male character and a higher- pitched voice for a female character. ​

Sing about the pictures. Use tunes that your child is already familiar with. This can expand his vocabulary and let him have fun mixing and matching words together. For example, you could sing “Mary had a little lamb” and rhyme it with “jam”. If there is a picture of a bus, you could add hand gestures as you sing “The Wheels on a Bus”.​

Talk about story characters. Ask simple questions like “What do you think the character is feeling?” and “Have you ever felt that way?” Encourage your child to express his feelings, talk about his day at school or make up stories with his favourite toys.​


Relate pictures to your child’s everyday life. For example, “Doesn’t this remind you of the time we went to the Botanic Gardens?” or “Look at the lake in the book, it’s as blue as the pool we went swimming in!” ​


Children drawing on paper

Tell stories to develop literacy skills. By now your child would have his favourite books. Build on them by including stories of a similar genre. If he likes dinosaurs, for instance, buy or borrow fiction and non-fiction books on dinosaurs from the bookstore or library.​

Reading to young children

Read everyday! Set aside 5 to 10 minutes each day to read with your child. Increase the time as your child's attention span lengthens. You can read on the bus or the MRT while you're on the go, or do it as a bedtime routine before your child goes to sleep.​

Reading book

Discuss book covers. Talk to your child about the picture on the cover and explain what the story is about. For Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you could say something like: "This girl has golden hair. That is why she is named Goldilocks. This story is about Goldilocks going into the bear's house."​


Finger plays and action songs are fun. Make reading even more enjoyable by adding actions. As you sing your child's favourite nursery rhymes such as 'Insy Bitsy Spider' or 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', include hand actions as well.​

Point to the words. Do this as you read. It will help your child relate to the words that you are reading. Let your child turn the pages. This teaches your child to turn the pages correctly, and helps develop an awareness of the direction to read words and sentences.​​​​​​ ​

Point to words