Playtime with parents builds language, social skills

Do you want to have a smart baby? Do you want your child to succeed in school? Then turn off your TV and video games, put away the high-tech toys, and open a book!

The simple act of reading, talking, and singing regularly with your child from early infancy can be one of the most important things a parent can do to stimulate brain development, strengthen parent-child relationships, and build language literacy and social emotional skills that last a lifetime. Research shows this can make a big difference in a child’s school success.

Unfortunately, one in three American children starts kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read. Children from homes in which more words are said to them in the first few years of life will enter school with a greater ability to learn to read.

These simple activities cost you nothing but are priceless in the benefits to both you and your child. Reading aloud, talking, and singing with young children are both fun and rewarding. For a parent, this time together can create some of the most memorable moments that you will experience with your child.

The 5 Rs of early education creates an easy way to remember some tips to helping your child succeed. There’s not a right or wrong way to talk, read, or play with your child. Just relax and have fun!

1. Reading together as daily family fun. Read a book. Cuddle and turn the pages of a book, point to pictures, talk about the characters and what they are doing. “Show me the cat?” Take your children to the public library; let them pick a book. Our libraries welcome children of all ages. Keep reading together even when children are older and reading on own. Take turns reading a page to each other; discuss the story and characters.

2. Rhyming, playing, talking, singing, and cuddling together often during day. Sing a song. Don’t worry if it’s off-key. Do this throughout the day. Make a silly song. Touch: Infants love the cuddle time, older children love the one-on-one time. Talk to your baby whenever you can. Talk about everything you are doing. They are listening! Ask toddlers questions about a story. Look for letters of the alphabet all around you, like when driving or at the grocery store.

3. Routine: Plan a special reading time every day. Part of a bedtime routine is a good way to settle down. Keep a book in the car or kitchen to read at other times.

4. Rewards for everyday successes, such as helping with a small task.

5. Relationships are formed and strengthened when you spend special time with your child. Time together lets a child know how important they are to you, and builds self-esteem. Meaningful memories are created for both you and your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports programs for early literacy and learning, including the Reach Out and Read program, which promotes reading with children 6 months to 5 years old and includes new books for kids as part of their well-child checkup. Interfaith Community Health Center and other health facilities in the community offer the program.