Most early educators know the importance of children developing language and pre-literacy skills. They are essential for communicating, building relationships, learning early academics, and understanding instructions. Children who develop a positive view of books and reading in the early years – well before they can actually read themselves – have a much better chance of being successful learners once they start school. The question is, of course, how best to support early language and literacy development in young children?
Hint: it has nothing to do with flashcards, or the alphabet song.
Children learn best when they are actively engaged and when the learning experiences they’re offered are interesting and relevant. This is why the very first word most children learn to recognize and write is their own name. Similarly, most children are more interested in books when being read to when the topics are engaging and familiar – whether it’s books they’ve heard before, familiar characters, or stories about places or events they recognize. But many teachers don’t realize that books and writing are just one piece of the early literacy puzzle. Literacy learning can and should happen throughout the child’s day, in all learning centers, and be focused on providing opportunities for children to actively engage with materials and use their imaginations.
The outdoor environment is one area that can be a terrific resource for literacy learning. While we often focus on the playground as just the place we take our children to get their energy out and engage in gross motor play, it’s a perfect opportunity to incorporate all sorts of language and literacy activities that engage both mind and body. Learning the names of plants and animals, building a little library and book corner outside, playing old fashioned games like Simon Says, drawing and writing with sidewalk chalk, creating a storybook path, setting aside a place for dramatic play with a variety of props – all of these and more can help children expand their early language skills. The freedom of movement in the outdoor environment can offer a different kind of experience than indoor language-building activities.
For a more in-depth look at how to optimize your outdoor environment for literacy and language learning, as well as free giveaways to get you started, register for our training “Creating a Literacy-Rich Environment in the Outdoors” on September 22, 2022 at Verner Center For Early Learning and Development at 6:00pm.
Additionally, we will be offering “Language and Literacy in Early Childhood” on Tuesday, October 11th at 6:15pm at our BPFC office on Asheland Ave. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about registration.