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 something 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!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.