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Reading, Writing, and Math Skills for Preschoolers

How to make learning fun and help prepare your child for kindergarten.
By Jen Uscher
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

When it comes to helping your preschool-aged child work on language and math skills, it’s best to find games and activities you both enjoy. This can lay the foundation for a positive attitude toward learning.  

“My perspective is that whatever parents do to teach children this age, they need to make it playful and fun,” says Pamela High, MD, professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of the division of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital. “You don’t want children to turn off to it because it’s too difficult for them.”

High tells WebMD that a good preschool or other early education program can help your child learn basic language and math concepts, as well as skills like being able to share and get along with other children. “These social and emotional skills are just as important for school success,” she says.

But experts say that preschoolers (ages 3-5) also benefit a great deal from the informal learning experiences that parents can build into everyday interactions and routines. Here’s how you can foster your child’s interest in reading, writing, counting, and more.

Building Reading and Writing Skills

You can prepare your child for reading and writing when you:

  • Read aloud to your child and discuss the characters, pictures, and events in the book. “Ask your child questions, such as: ‘What do you see in this picture?’ or ‘What do you think the bears will do next?’” says Kathy H. Barclay, EdD, professor of early childhood and reading in the department of curriculum and instruction at Western Illinois University.
  • Point out new words in books. For example, Barclay says that after you read: “She took a small nibble of the porridge,” you could say: “It says she took a small nibble. That means she took a really tiny bite of the porridge. Do you ever nibble your food?”
  • Sing songs and read books with rhymes and play rhyming games. “Rhyming patterns help children become aware of the individual sounds of language,” Barclay says.
  • Play with alphabet magnets and letter stamps so your child will start learning about letters. “Help your child learn to recognize the letters in her own name and in the names of family members and friends,” Barclay says.
  • Give your child crayons, pencils, markers, and paper and encourage her to scribble and draw. Eventually she’ll start trying to write letters. But don’t worry about whether she is forming letters correctly in these early stages, Barclay says. It’s more important that she develops motor skills and becomes comfortable with writing.

Learning a Second Language

If you’d like to teach your child a second language, the preschool years are a great time to do it. “For most children, the earlier they’re exposed to other languages, they more fluent they’re likely to be as they get older,” High says.

One way to teach your child to be bilingual is to speak, sing, and read to them in both languages from the time they’re born. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, learning more than one language will not cause a child to develop speech or language problems.

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