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Friday 9 October 2015

Talk. Read. Sing. ® with First 5 California

Today I'm working with First 5 California, a trusted free resource provided to parents and caregivers, to spread the word about the importance of talking, reading and singing to (and with) babies and young children.

Interacting with young children in these ways is so important. It helps them develop an understanding of their world, increases vocabulary and helps their developing communication skills - right from the very start. Did you know that 90% of the brain is formed by the age 5? Or that more than 80% of it is formed by the age 3? These early years are so important when it comes to learning. That may sound a little scary, but helping young children learn important skills can really be as simple as talking, reading and singing to (and with) them.

Reading with my kids is one of my favorite things. It's a great way to spend some quality time together and I love knowing that my kids are learning as we read. Now that Ava and Lola are both at school I have more time to spend one on one with Mathilde. We spend a lot of time both playing and reading, and often these two things go hand in hand.

If you follow Little Hiccups on Instagram you'll be aware that my little Mathilde is just a little obsessed with diggers. Ok, more than a little. She's totally obsessed. But it's not just diggers, it's all sorts of vehicles: diggers, tractors, buses, cars, trucks, motorbikes, airplanes... If it has an engine and wheels, she's all over it. So when it comes to finding books to read together you can probably guess what her favorite theme is... Things that go! One of my favorite things about reading books about vehicles is that there's so much opportunity for playful interaction and extended learning. Mathilde almost always has her trusty digger by her side and she plays with it as we read. And of course, there are always lots of fun "brrrooomm" and "beep beep" noises - from both of us!

Being an urban baby, Mathilde is always surrounded by vehicles and she has been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. Right from the start she loved looking out of our fourth floor apartment windows over the traffic below. I'd hold her and talk about the type of vehicles driving past and the places they might be going to. I'd make up little songs about the vehicles and I'd even copy the noises they make. We still do this. I'm sure my neighbors must think I'm crazy! But in fact these simple interactions with Mathilde have helped her develop an understanding of the world around her, even when she was too young to actually understand what I was saying. Even the crazy noises!

Through reading books about vehicles and talking about them as we see them on our walks and out the window, Mathilde has developed quite a vocabulary. She points and says "digger" or "car" when she sees them in her books. Similarly, she points at and says the name of vehicles as we see them in real life. On our walks Mathilde calls out "car", 'bus", "truck", "bike" and "digger" at the vehicles that we pass. On occasion we're lucky enough to throw in "tractor" and "roller". We're still working on "excavator"! 

As I said earlier, I love that we can extend our interactions with Mathilde's books through play. Mathilde enjoys playing with her toy digger and loves to compare it to the pictures in her books. Her absolute favorite thing though is to stop by a nearby construction site and check out the real diggers in action. One day we stopped by a nearby construction site while the workers were having lunch. Mathilde reached under the stroller, grabbed her favorite digger book and turned to a page that showed a group of construction workers eating their lunch. I love that she made this connection. 

All of this playing, reading, talking and observation of the real world is helping Mathilde to be better prepared for when she starts school, even though that's years away. Research shows that children who aren't read to and talk to from birth have a 50% chance of falling behind and struggle to catch up. It's never too early (or too late, for that matter) to start talking, reading and singing to your kids.

For tips, ideas and advice on talking, reading and singing to your child make sure to visit First 5 California. It's a great resource for parents and care givers and offers health and education advice, fantastic downloads, and (my favorite) a great Activity Center full of fun ideas for play at different ages.

Talk. Read. Sing. ® It changes everything.

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