Discovering the Family Literacy Circle with Your Post-Toddler (36-48 Months)
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Your precious darling is growing from a baby into a young child.
Look at the birthday party pictures last year and compare them to this years’ party. Notice anything different? (not you-your child)
Yes, some Toddler expressions and behaviors are still present, but something else is taking place in your dear little one.
With an almost full set of baby teeth, more body control, and a larger, spoken vocabulary, your three year-old is becoming more confident & comfortable in his/her world.
Does it feel like many (not all, of course) of the “Two” behaviors have calmed down?
Not as many fits, tantrums, & NOOOs?!?
Fewer bites, hits, kicks, spits & throws, rather, launches ?!?
I am talking about your three year-old, NOT you…..
Well then (BIG sigh), your Post-Toddler has arrived.
S/he appears less frantic & can sit still for longer periods of time when engaged in an interesting activity. S/he is using words more & “body” less when expressing feelings.
S/he is showing more interest & patience with exploration & discovery. Notice how s/he is spending more time observing & imitating others.
That is why I named this stage of growth & development: Post-Toddler. Still some Toddler-stuff present, but outbursts & frustrations are less frequent. Unless s/he is tired, sick, hungry, and/or just having one of those days (don’t we all?!?).
And sometimes those “growing pains” can be….well, you know…
Some “Changes” You May Be Seeing
Body & Movement Skills
- appears taller & leaner
- puts on shoes & dresses with some help
- feeds oneself with a spoon
- throws overhand & tries to catch
- jumps & climbs
- pedals a trike or low-rider
- holds a crayon with thumb & first 2 fingers
- enjoys manipulating play-doh/clay, sand & water
- YOU CAN: show your child how to hop, tiptoe, waddle, slither
Brain Growth & Expression
- understands “now”, “soon” & “later”
- asks who, what, where & when questions
- shows an interest in alike & different
- identifies the colors red, blue, yellow & green
- talks in 3-5 word sentences
- may stumble over some words, but is NOT stuttering
- YOU CAN: add small, new bits of information to your child’s sentences
Emotional & Social Development
- follows simple directions
- accepts suggestions
- makes choices between 2 different things
- enjoys making others laugh & being silly
- enjoys playing with other for short periods of time
- wants adult attention & approval
- likes looking at “when you were a baby” pictures
- YOU CAN: ask for help with simple household tasks
Now that wasn’t your three year-old a year ago, was it?
Need more info? PBS Parents is a great site loaded with specifics. Click on the link below.
Speaking of Speaking….
Your Post-Toddler’s Language Literacy continues to develop & grow.
S/he can enunciate most consonants & vowels with a few consonant blends, too, like “tw” & “kw”.
With over 300 words in his/her expressive vocabulary, s/he is talking A LOT more – to you, toys, pets, nature. Although your child, at this stage, still thinks each word has only one meaning, s/he is, also, spending much of the day asking A LOT of questions.
Think “who, did what, when & where”. These questions/answers are actually the building blocks of reading comprehension’s Main Idea. You are finally discovering what is in that hard little head of hers/his.
Your 3 year-old believes there is an answer to every question asked (isn’t there?!?). Even “Magic !” is a reasonable answer to him/her.
Be ready, though, s/he may answer your question with a question. Or water the dog to make it grow…..
Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician who wrote The Happiest Toddler on the Block, suggests using “Okay?” at the end of ideas, directions, etc. This simple word shows your child you, not only, have an interest in her/his point of view, but also, hope s/he agrees with yours……possibly…..
How You Can Continue to Encourage Your Post-Toddler’s Language Literacy Growth
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach’s Info-Sheet on Developmental Milestones, “Ages & Stages at 3 Years”, offers these suggestions:
- Use directional words, such as “in/on/under” when explaining &/or answering.
- Use comparison words, like “big/little, same/different, front/behind”.
- Sing songs, rhymes, sounds, words & simple sentences.
- Ask your child to tell you a story.
- Have many back-and-forth conversations, using short sentences, asking questions & listening.
- Talk about colors, shapes & numbers everyday.
- Take a Nature Walk. Look for & talk about shapes, sizes, colors, textures, smells & sounds.
- Teach your child to memorize his/her first & last name.
Play Power = Brain Power
A mind once stretched to a new idea never returns to its original size. ~ Oliver Wendall Holmes
Play is the essential tool we use, as humans, to develop our 5 senses, gross & fine motor skills, receptive & expressive language, as well as emotional & social skills.
It, also, influences the amount of brain cells we produce.
Exploration, curiosity & determination are the necessary paths we use to discover how to understand our world, whether large or small.
Nothing child-like about it!
It’s a survival skill we use everyday and all day long. Well, most of us anyway…..
Currently, your Post-Toddler’s brain continues to develop in 2 areas: the Limbic, or emotional part of the brain & the Cortical, or thinking part of the brain.
Emotional/Social growth begins around 12 months and continues until 48 months. This stage of development can be encouraged with play involving teams: winning, losing, taking turns & sharing.
The growth of concrete & abstract thinking begins around 36 months and continues until 6 years old. Play involving humor, language, arts & games will encourage this stage of development.
Serious Play Is Hard Work
And hard work can not be successfully accomplished without serious play….
So, if you equate play with fun ~ it doesn’t always work that way. Play is the action, or process used during creation, exploration, & experimentation until we reach the destination, or discovery.
A bit wordy, I know, but synchronizing work with play is “how I roll”.
I combined Kristina @ Planes & Balloons’ 2016 article, “Some of the Many Benefits of Play” with Perry, Hogan & Marlin’s 2000 article, “Curiosity, Pleasure & Play: Skills Developed Through Play” to create an info-table explaining the impact of play on your child’s brain development.
Play & Your Child's Brain Development
|BRAIN AREA||BRAIN AREA||BRAIN AREA|
| Emotional & Social |
|Self Growth||Thought Development|
Additionally, your child’s desire & ability to Role Play, I feel, is developed within all 3 of these brain areas. Creativity & self-expression may influence the particular role s/he is “playing”. Is s/he fantasizing, imitating, and/or coping ?
Be Your Child’s Play Promoter
Although your Post-Toddler still enjoys playing beside others & watching them play, soon, s/he will have the tools to play WITH other children.
The ability to share, take turns and cooperate continues to grow & develop with each passing day.
Remember, some people are more socially-driven than others.
In 2016 NourishBaby displayed Shoptwinkie.com’s infographic, “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood”. Learning through discovery will happen if you:
- don’t take over (Here, let me….)
- ask questions (How are you going to….)
- allow him/her to find the answers independently (Oh, I see…….)
Interactive Talk & Play
If your child enjoys interactive language while playing, another part of the material included script suggestions for supporting the different stages in your child’s play:
- What will you need ?
- Let’s think about what you are going to do.
- Tell me how you will start. What will happen then?
- I wonder what this is.
- What do you think that is for?
- Why do you think that happened?
- Tell me how it all started.
- Can you remember what happened when….?
- How did that feel?
- Can you guess what will happen next?
- What do you think will happen if you….?
- What do you think will happen if you don’t….?
Providing A Defined Play Space At Home
Not all parents want to turn their homes into a giant playground. Many children enjoy having a “space of their own”. This “office of play” is part of your child’s growth & development.
Keep an ear out though. Too quiet for an extended period of time and you may need to “step into the office….”
Creating an area with sturdy (so you can sit in them, too), child-sized chairs & a table encourages your child to sit and focus on independent play. Building with blocks, having a tea party, working puzzles, making a race track or construction site, creating art, and even reading a book can become a part of your Post-Toddler’s learning.
Any amount of time, even a minute or two, during which children sit and entertain themselves with one thing helps them grow. ~ Felicia Sklamberg, a clinical specialist in pediatric occupational therapy at New York University Langone Medical Center
With Open-Ended Toys & Free Play
Open-ended toys are really the discovery tools of learning & growing. By definition they are “things” that can be used in a variety of ways to encourage:
- problem solving
Does your child like to stack block towers, sort objects by size & colors, and/or put a 3-6-piece puzzle together? Play outside with large wheeled toys, all sizes of balls, and/or sticks & rocks ?
Are you wondering what other kinds of toys will encourage your child’s brain health, growth & development ?
Will these toy-tools encourage discovery within the Family Literacy Circle ?
“Yes” to all questions?
Here’s a list of some other open-ended, free play tools (with their skill sets), your 3 year old will probably enjoy :
- musical instruments
- music for song & dance
- play-doh & clay
- any large-wheeled toy
- different-sized balls
- medium & large blocks
- nesting & stacking toys
- 3-6-piece puzzles
- crayons, paint/brushes, glue & paper
- dress-up clothes
- pretend costumes
- community helper hats & tools
- tents & teepees
- kitchen stuff
- castles & houses
- barns & fences
- street signs & stores
- puppets & dolls
- habitat animals: farm, jungle, forest, water
- matching games
- building blocks with a variety of colors, sizes & shapes
- construction toys (needed to be put together)
And BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS !!!
Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would never read yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw
By now some of those well-loved books might need to be replaced with a second copy. Some of those “baby books” may need to be tucked away for another time & place.
Are you taking your Post-Toddler to a StoryTime at your local library, play group, elementary school or rec center? If so, observe what kinds of books are holding your child’s interest.
Many 3 year-olds love to hear stories about other places and people.
Pull some age-appropriate books from the library shelves in the children’s Picture Books, or Easy Books section.
Sit down & spread them out. See which ones will get “checked out” for home reading.
Have your 3 year-old try these 10 books on for size:
- DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! ~ Mo Willens
- THE OLIVIA SERIES ~ Ian Falconer
- A FISH OUT OF WATER ~ Helen Palmer
- WHOEVER YOU ARE ~ Mem Fox
- THE MIXED-UP CHAMELEON ~ Eric Carle
- GREEN EGGS AND HAM ~ Dr. Seuss
- CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO ~ Richard Scarry
- THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY ~ Oliver Jeffers
- BLUE HAT, GREEN HAT ~ Sandra Boynton
- GO, DOG, GO ! ~ PD Eastman
Be forewarned – I had to replace most of these books at home and in my classroom…….several times….
Need a few more suggestions ?
Click on my Resource Library links below.
On – The – Go Reading Nooks With Your Post-Toddler
Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. ~ Kate DiCamillo
If you have been steadily reading to your Post-Toddler since s/he was in-utero, you probably have a little bookworm in your home.
Some children love being read to until they can hop off the cuddly lap of story-land.
Catch ‘Em & Read:
- before bedtime
- during bathtime
- before or during quiet time
- during snacktime
- under a tree outside
- in a hammock outside
- in the tent or teepee
- under some covers with a flashlight
Some children would rather hear a story-telling instead of a book-story. “Stories can and should be part of your household routines & schedules. They can be as short or long as your listener’s attention.” Lisa Lipkin, Bringing the Story Home
Non-Book Literacy Stories
- Make sure to include the story elements: beginning (characters & setting), middle (action & problem), ending (solution & prediction)
- Ask & answer interactive questions throughout the story
- Invite your child to contribute to the story-telling
- Capture your child’s attention while on a drive or a walk, in a waiting room or line, at the bus or train stop, during bathtime or before bedtime
- Use fantasy, humor & family history as part of the story
- Dress-up in role-play clothing & ask your child to tell you a story about the character you are
- Include simple props & toys for settings, characters & dialogue
Every Time We Read A Book…..
Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, here are some tips for building literacy while reading aloud at this age & older:
- Encourage solid pre-reading habits- daily reads, book handling, word tracking, time & order (first/middle/last), retelling with complete sentences.
- Ask interactive questions while reading a story- what will happen next/how does the character feel/has this ever happened to you.
- Read slowly & wait for her/him to turn the pages.
- Answer your listener’s questions.
- Make up rhyming words with some of the simpler words.
- Use the story’s pictures to make up more stories.
- Let the listener “read” the story.
I Think My Child Is Ready To Read…..
The first time my son (at 3 years-old) said, “I can read this book to you!”, my wide eyes glistened with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear my little genius read ME a story….at 3 YEARS OLD!!!!!
Sure enough, he proudly held the book and carefully “read” each page of The Little Red Car, one of his favorite boardbooks.
He didn’t miss a word. I clapped with glee!
Over the next few weeks, he read & read this book to me….faster & faster. I guess he was becoming one with the little red car.
One day I asked him to point to the words as he read them…….uh huh…..
Smiling, I never said a word, and he continued to read the story to me everyday for the next few years.
We, also, continued playing colors, shapes, letters, sounds & word-picture rhyming games.
Learning, knowing , and applying the concepts of same & different shapes is a major step for success in letter recognition. Seeing the same & different shapes in the world prepares your child to make sense of “visual discrimination”.
BLB Shop has a collection of Interactive Color & Shape games created to prepare your child to recognize these pre-reading concepts:
Click on the link below to check it out.
I became more consistent tracking words with their pictures when I read simple sentence stories.
What Are Pre-Reading Behaviors?
Is your child showing you some of these Pre-Reading behaviors :
- Makes comments about language & unusual words
- Makes up word games
- Creates & plays with words using rhyme
- Invents “silly” words
- Plays with sounds
- Plays with magnetic letters
- Likes to read alphabet books
- Sings the alphabet song
- Points out “environmental print”, like the S in a stop sign
- Knows it is the print that is read in stories
Hmmmm, Not Quite Ready….How Can I Help ?
Bookoola Ink from Australia produced a wonderful infographic, explaining what your child needs to know before learning to read:
- Rhyme the sounds that letters make
- Track / follow objects with eyes
- Talk with an increasing vocabulary
- Build things using fingers & hands independently to hold books & turn pages
- Do puzzles to differentiate sizes, shapes, lines & directions
- Look at books frequently for discovery & fun
- Listen to someone read every day
The 5 Must-Know Skills for Reading Readiness
First of all, how is your child’s vocabulary progressing ? S/he has learned most words indirectly through your daily conversations, interactive read-alouds, both fiction & nonfiction as well as movies/screen time. Build his/her vocabulary for understanding in these 4 areas:
- Listening Vocabulary are words we hear & understand when hearing directions & a story
- Speaking Vocabulary are words we use when we talk about our day & ask/answer questions
- Reading Vocabulary are words we understand when we read, retell stories or create story from pictures we see
- Writing Vocabulary are words we use when we write & draw pictures to tell a story
All About Learning Press, Inc has a concise list with tips for your eager-to-read child. Do be sure your Post-Toddler is comfortable and consistent with these skills:
Motivation to Read
- Enjoys being read to
- Pretends to read or write
- Often asks for read-aloud time
- Is enthusiastic about books
- Thinks reading is fun
- Realizes print on a page are words with meaning when spoken
- Holds book correctly
- Understands the direction that books are read-front to back
- Knows print is read top to bottom
- Recognizes sentences are read from left to right
- Understands story sequence
- Can retell a familiar story with accuracy
- Answers simple questions about a story
- Asks questions during read-alouds
- Understands the meaning of words being read
- Relates to the words being read in some way
- Understands both verbal & visual information
- Can sing the Alphabet song with help
- Recognizes upper & lowercase letters
- Begins to associate letters with sounds
- Can hear & identify different sounds in spoken words
- Can rhyme words
- Knows a sentence has multiple , individual words
- Can blend sounds to make a word
- Can identify the beginning & ending sound of a word
How Do I Teach the Alphabet
If your child is is ready, you might want to begin with her/his name. You can try to use upper & lowercase letters, but for beginning readers & writers, uppercase letters are not only easier to differentiate & recognize, but also, easier to write.
Read lots of engaging alphabet books ~ here’s a few my children & I have enjoyed:
- ABC ANIMAL RHYMES ~ G. Andreae
- ABC AT HOME ~ A. Hawthorne & D. Zawada
- CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM ~ J.Archambault
- DR. SEUSS’ ABC ~ Dr. Seuss
- MY FIRST RHYMING PICTURE ABC ~ B. Miles
- BRUNO MUNARI’S ABC ~ B. Munari
- MISS SPIDER’S ABC ~ D. Kirk
- THE PHONICS ABC ~ K. Dare
- ALPHABET CITY ~ S.T. Johnson
- FARM ALPHABET BOOK ~ J. Miller
Playing alphabet games is another way to continue the learning process. It is a process, so let your ABC learner set the pace. Several five-minute lessons each day may be good. So will skipping some days.
Don’t forget to repeat, maybe with a different lesson for review.
Let your child select the letters. Unless ABC order is insisted upon by your Post-Toddler, here are a few sequences to consider:
Make Alphabet Learning Fun!
Exploring each letter with hands-on activities is definitely the way to keep your Post-Toddler engaged. Using the 5 senses and physical movement is necessary as well.
Change up the learning-approach with a variety of activities. Use your child’s interest (and attention span) to guide you.
Include lessons as part of your daily routine. Remember to review & repeat to build confidence & risk-taking when introducing a new letter & its sound.
Let your Post-Toddler be the teacher. It will help you know what s/he knows and needs to learn.
Click on my Resource Library link below for some great ABC activities websites:
Literacy’s Secret Pathway: Writing to Read
Many of my Reluctant Readers learned to read NOT by reading books, but through their own writings. They were always ready to read their own words instead of another’s words.
Their stories, surprisingly, with a few prompts, usually included all the elements of a fluid tale: beginning (characters & setting), middle (problem & solution), and ending. Another follow-up story was always in the tank, so to speak. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here….
Drawing, painting, coloring & writing are all very powerful expressions. For parents & educators, they offer magical windows into the heart, mind & soul of anyone, especially a child.
But holding & controlling a paintbrush, crayon and/or pencil is a developmental feat for your young child. It takes a lot of practice with some determination, usually.
Fine Motor Skills Mastery
The mastery of fine motor skills, paired with the ability to create images in your head, is an incredible accomplishment for anyone, especially a child.
I am always amazed when watching a child in the creative zone!
In 2011 Katie Norris @ Mommy with Selective Memory and her friend Susan Case, an experienced Kindergarten teacher, created a GREAT list of Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills :
- pouring elements using funnels, tubes, colanders
- sorting small objects
- pushing objects through a slot
- picking up marbles
- building with blocks, logs, legos
- lacing with lacing cards
- grasping & placing puzzle pieces
- arranging a variety of objects
- picking up & placing stickers
- playing with play-doh: pulling, pressing, stretching, rolling, pounding, squeezing, pinching
- beading with yarn & string
- marking with fat pencils, fat crayons, sidewalk chalk
- cutting with safety scissors
Writing & Drawing : Same But Different
Although your child is using the same physical skills to write & draw – the brain has other ideas. Your Post-Toddler needs to understand that writing & drawing are different.
Print carries a message. Show your beginning writer the many ways to use writing:
- names & addresses
- shopping lists
- greeting cards
- love notes
- phone messages
- to-do lists
Put big dots with a connecting line in a column on paper. Encourage your Post-Toddler’s “scribblings” for making a list of :
- favorite toys
- favorite activities
- wish list
- favorite foods
- favorite colors
- favorite animals
Write in large, traceable letters what the words are underneath or beside each entry.
Bookoola Ink from Australia produced a wonderful infographic, explaining what your child needs to know before learning to write:
- Imagine – make up stories when painting & creating
- Scribble & Draw – make marks & shapes to communicate messages
- Play with letters & words
- Manipulate – paintbrushes, crayons, pencils & chalk
- Build – use fingers independently
- Climb – need strong arms & body muscles to sit up & write
- Someone to show me how important writing is everyday
What Is Pre – Writing
Learning to write in a legible way can be very challenging (see a note from your doctor). Muscle control is key as well as grasp & flexibility.
Doodling & pathway lines are good ways to prepare your child’s fingers & hand for handwriting. There are pages you can find at teacher stores & on line with fun ways to get to the “treasure”.
Anna Luther @ CincinnatiChildrens.org has a few pre-writing activity suggestions for your 3-year-old:
- Name Tracing with your child using a highlighter on paper; try using upper & lowercase letters
- Cutting Practice out of magazines & catalogs; glue on paper & write the simple names underneath
- Play Doh Rope Letters formed on top of a large chosen letter you have written on paper
- Dot – To – Dot Letters written on paper for your child to connect
Please remember to keep in mind every child grows & develops at his/her own pace. These ideas are suggestions for creating Literacy opportunities when your child is ready. And s/he will let you know as long as the activities are available & FUN!
Isn’t this an exciting time for you & your Post-Toddler?
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