Your Toddler: Reading Skills

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The word “read” is define by the Encarta World English Dictionary as the ability to interpret: written material, printed signs, body language, and by understanding intuitively.  Despite the normal lack of ability to read the printed word, there are a variety of early reading skills that toddlers can develop. 

A Toddler Can Read…

Tone of Voice

I’m just as guilty as the next of startling my son as a toddler by how I say things.  You know the situation, Tot reaches for the drink you left on the edge of the table and you let out a short, sharp, “no!”. Tot jerks a bit, then starts to cry.  Usually not because of the word “no”, but because of how it was said.  Though this probably isn’t true of very small infants because they are still learning to associate different sounds.  As many parents and caregivers often do, we tend to use “motherese” with babies and younger children {simpler words and higher vocal pitch}.  But children are amazingly perceptive and can often read and gauge a situation based on parent/caregiver emotions {anxiety, happiness, sadness} solely how the tone of voice words are said in.

Body Language

I’m as guilty as the next for mentally admonishing mothers who seem to roughly handle their toddlers {in my opinion, at least}.  I suppose it all depends on individual parenting style.  But a lot can be told by how another stands, gestures, or touches us.  Likewise, a toddler will often times react to how they are handled, grabbed, or moved from one spot to the other.  Over time and continued handling by an individual, Tot will begin to expect that response from the person.  This would explain, why children know that they can go to certain caregivers for comforting when they are upset…they know that they will receive gentle touches.

Familiar Printed Signs

And as we traveled around town doing errands and entering buildings, I often pointed out store/restaurant signs and said their names.  I can’t deny my excitement at buying my son his first Happy Meal. I even took a picture of it.  You can bet that every time we passed those golden arches after that, he pointed out “Donald’s!”.  The other sign that seems to be something that small children can relate to is a Stop sign.  When they are consistently exposed to the shapes and colors of common signs toddlers learn that those funny symbols are used to say something.

So, can toddlers sit down with a copy of “Goodnight Moon” and read the whole book?  Not likely.  But they are able to read…to decipher meanings of people and objects around them.  So as their parents and caregivers we can help them to further the ability to understand their environment.

It’s never too young to introduce reading to your child.  Here are some other ideas for helping your young child learn some beginning reading skills:


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Andie Jaye About Andie Jaye

Andie Jaye is a former preschool teacher turned SAHM of two kiddos. Her blog, Crayon Freckles, is an eclectic mix of play, art, and learning activities. Mingled in are her perspectives on being a crunchy momma, having a long-haired hippy boy and using follow-your-gut parenting. See more of Andie on Crayon Freckles' Facebook page, on Pinterest or on her parenting teens site Why Does My Teen?

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