Games are a fun way to bond with your baby, and your baby can totally learn all sorts of things from the games you play. I want to focus on a few games that will help with reading specifically. It is my opinion that reading is the foundation of education, because it is what helps teachers convey the lessons. A child who can read well will often tend to do better in school than a child who does not.
I know some children have learning disabilities that slow down their reading capabilities, and other learning facets. This journal entry does not exclude them. A learning disability does not mean a kid can't learn, nor does it mean they aren't bright. It means they need to work a little harder, or perhaps learn a different way. Games are even better for those children than children without those disabilities‘, because it takes the focus off of learning, a nice relief for kids who have to work hard at it.
You can read the word "Alphabet". Now, imagine you had no idea what that word was, or what it could possibly mean. It does you no good at all to have read it if you can't figure out what it is. A newborn baby or an infant has no idea what anything is, so clearly they cannot learn to read words (or at least, not just any words) at this time. So here comes my favorite game. Give it any name you like, but it boils down to
You have heard this a hundred times, read it a million more, and it never ceases to lose its importance. Labeling the world for your baby is how you begin the foundation for reading. Reading the word Cat suddenly takes on new meaning when you see what a cat looks like, feels like, and sounds like.
So let's talk about how labeling can be fun for your baby. I like to label groups of things that are similar. I leek to hope they will connect in baby's brain in the near future.
"Okay baby! Time to make a bottle. This is your bottle! It's Pink! Pink is Pretty! Pretty Pink Bottle!"
"This is a cup. This is what Mommy/Daddy drinks from. This cup is clear. That means you can see through it ((peek at baby through it)) See how fun! The clear cup is fun!"
"Here is a spoon. It is round. You can eat with it, Use it for a drumstick ((demonstrate spoon drumstick)) or even stick it on your nose ((you know what to do))" This spoon is my favorite, because I can see you in it (let baby see reflection where possible)."
Yes, this totally works. Babies love being spoken to and the older your baby gets the more fun it gets. I label this way with my 2.5 yo, my 18 mo old AND my 5 mo old, and all 3 love it!
Let's kick it up a notch!
"This is a bowl. It's for holding food. It's a circle ((show the top, circular part to baby)) It is like a wheel ((demonstrate wheel)) or it can be a hat!” (If you demonstrate a hat while there is food in it, you get an extra bonus as a parent))
“This is broccoli! Can you say Broccoli? Broccoli is green, and looks like a tiny tree. Tiny Trees are yummy yummy! Watch me eat it….YYYUUMMM! YAY Tiny Tree is good for me!”
As your child gets older, try to get more descriptive, but with simple words. The color, the texture, the smell (smells nice, stinky, fresh, clean, yucky, or bad are some good examples) and this is how you open up the world of adjectives to your baby. Not only will your child know what a cat is, but your child will be able to eventually read and understand with one simple word that a cat is small, soft, and cuddly. Imagine when you play with your child by labeling things that you take a simple spoon and turn it into a familiar object that is useful and fun at the same time. They will read spoon and the gears in their tiny brains will turn and remember all the things a spoon can do…and the gear that turns to remember what fun you had with a spoon will also turn out some imagination. YAY for imagination!
Do you feel stupid talking to your baby like this? You would feel even dumber if you realized one day you don't talk to your sweet tiny #1 fan at all, right? And anyone judging a Mommy or Daddy for talking to a baby is not someone you should be listening to at all.
So, I know labeling isn’t as much a “game” as it is a language. So, what about games? Bring on the games!
Game #1 is for toddlers that can talk at least a little. So, I’d say about 15 months and up. I don’t have a name for this game, so feel free to make a suggestion, ok?
What you need: A toddler in a good mood and a silly mood yourself. For added fun, a digital camera with a screen and some healthy (but yummy!) snacks. I highly recommend those little stars you can get in the toddler food aisle at your local store, because for some reason kids love those veggie ones.
Tell your little tyke you are going to play a game. Get them excited. Say you are going on a hunt. If you have the camera, say you are going to take pictures of what you are hunting.
“Okay little darling, Let’s play a game! You want to play with mommy/daddy right? Well, We need to find things that start with A and put them on the couch. If you can put something like that on the couch, You win, and you get a prize! You like prizes? YAY! Okay, we can take pictures of the things that start with the letter “A”, too! Won’t that be neat-o? Okay, let’s start. What sound doe s”A” make (wait about 5 seconds) AHHHHor AAAA, right? What starts with those sounds..hmm….
“Apple? Yes! YAY! Let’s put that on the couch..we did it!”
“Pillow? Nooo..that’s silly, pillow doesn’t sound like that….”
“This picture is of Aunty..hey, aunty sounds like “a” so let’s put it on the couch! YAY! We did it! Let’s have a treat, and do another letter. “
Taking pictures of your tyke holding the items can be fun, or if you are brave (or rich) let your tyke take the picture his/herself. This gets my kiddo really going, he will go through everything in the house to find as many things that start with A as possible. You can also save the pictures, and later put them on a slideshow on your computer and ask your kiddo to name the things you took pictures of. If your little one took the pictures, they will be thrilled to see it on the screen. Voila! We love playing a game linking letters to their sounds.
Younger toddlers may not last long with this game, nor will they understand linking the letter/sound/object right away. But that is what this is about…teaching them to link it….so do what you need to, get excited, jump around, crawl about, and be silly to keep the interested and you will find a couple times after you have played the game, they will catch on and at least try to bring you things. Even if it’s the wrong thing, that will teach what sound the letter does NOT make, just always remember to say good try, because trying is just as important as being correct when learning by playing.
Okay, so I feel like it was hard to explain this game, but I play it a lot with my 18 month old and 2.5 year old, so if you have questions, ask away by comment or personal message and I will answer as fast as I can. Also, if you take pictures in this game, feel free to share them, because I will show them to my kiddos and get them to tell me what letter….and you can do the same. I will share a picture from the next time we play (probably tomorrow after my dr appointment.)
It’s hard to find real games to play with an infant. However, I got one that is awesome. I don’t recall where the original concept came from but I swear I am not taking credit for the original idea, ok? Just letting you all know what game I play with my little girl.
“Buzzy A, B, C’s” Is more about sounds than anything, but is again, another step besides labeling that links the world to words.
Lay your baby on his/her back. Make a bzzzzz noise and wave your hand at a medium pace where baby can see you, like it’s a bumble bee. Say buzzzzzy A! and give baby a tiny tummy tickle. Do it again, and say Bzzzzzz-y buzz-y “b” and take longer to buzz the baby’s tummy than you did with A. repeat with “C”. Now start over, making the phonetic sound for the letter…BZZZZy “ahhh” Bzzzzy “AAA” Bzzzzy buh” “Bzzzzzy kuh” bzzzy sah” you get the idea. Babis love games that involve a little anticipation, which means the more you play this game, the more they like it, because they rememebr it and learn to anticipate it. Like pee-a-boo. I play this game while changing a diaper, because then I get to bare belly, and Isabella loves it, she even belly laughs for me now.
I have more games, but not so much more time right now. I am too busy playing these games with my kids. SOOOO I will come back and post many more games, so stay tuned, ok?