By Duncan Rose, Head of Schools, British Council in Singapore

30 March 2017 - 14:21

There are very practical ways that you as a parent can support what your child learns in preschool. For example, at 3-4 years old, children are becoming ever more aware of their language skills and their vocabulary suddenly expands. It is amazing to see how quickly their word bank develops and how experimental children are at this age. They play with language and take risks when using new words. The more we support this exploration and help to push their linguistic boundaries the more they will develop strong language skills in the future.

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Parents can help their pre-schoolers develop into readers and writers by playing with letters and their sounds, through dramatic play with characters from books and by reading lots of books together. They can also encourage children to associate simple written words with imagery and ideas. This starts with concepts such as the student recognising their own name and then rapidly develops into recalling simple CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example dog and cat, through stories with strong visuals.

Children are entertaining story tellers and encouraging them to experiment with language and retell you their experiences or even the plot of books, TV shows and movies allows them to express themselves and experiment with new words they have learned. Simple actions such as enjoying a movie together can be expanded into a learning experience by asking the child questions about the plot and characters after watching. Children will formulate opinions, recount parts of the plot, embellish parts of the story with their own imaginings and all the while flex their linguistic muscles.

Even though it is important to set aside time to read together from books it is also good to note that everyday experiences such as waiting in line for a bus or a visit to the supermarket are opportunities to learn new words, engage in conversation and discuss your child’s ideas, observations and feelings.

Here are 5 simple strategies you can employ to bolster your child’s development. 

  1. Point to the words as you read aloud. In this way your child connects the spoken word to the printed one.
  2. Repeat your child’s words but with the correction. Teachers know this as soft correction and it is a way of encouraging the use of more accurate grammar without damaging the child’s ego.
  3. Join your child in pretend play. Playing and making up stories together is a powerful tool to build bonds of trust and experiment with language.
  4. Make up rhymes together. Encouraging language play through rhyming words and song leads children to play with language and be more daring in their linguistic risk-taking.
  5. Draw and write alongside your child. One way to encourage your child is through demonstration. Showing a child how to write and coaching them with their motor skills through gentle guidance can have a powerful impact on their ability.

As parents we all want the best for our children. Placing our pre-schoolers at the heart of the learning experience and encouraging parents and teachers to work together towards similar goals is central to a philosophy that supports our children’s education. By sharing learning objectives and having realistic expectations we can ensure the best for our children and in doing so inspire them to excel.

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This article first appeared in Parents World, March/April 2017.