By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

Create a reading tradition. As noted by Teaching Our Youngest, a pre-school guide published by the U.S. Department of Education, your child can begin developing an awareness of printed letters and words at the age of two or three. You can build this awareness by reading aloud to your children, and making your own observations about what you're reading - noting how the lines of some books rhyme, for example, or asking your child to identify the letters in certain words.

Play by the numbers. Children who enter preschool with some knowledge of numbers and counting have a good foundation for lessons throughout their first year. You can build this knowledge by counting familiar objects around your home. Examples might include counting the stairs as you walk down them, counting the plates and glasses on your dinner table and counting the pictures on your walls. Children also like to count with their fingers and toes.

Set aside a creative play-space. From pretending to be an astronaut, to building a house, to imagining what it would be like to hunt for buried treasure, role-playing can be a fun and effective way to stimulate your child's natural curiosity and imagination. Having durable "dress-up" clothes and costumes readily available can help children envision the nexus between their natural interests and future vocation.

Drawing, painting and storytelling can likewise foster creative energy. Having plenty of pencils, crayons, paints and different kinds of paper readily available will enable your child to act whenever the inspiration strikes. Large plastic or paper letters, alphabet blocks and materials for making letters - such as pipe cleaners and play dough - can help your child learn to recognize the alphabet and spell easy words such as their own names.

Make your home a gateway to different places. Even if you're not taking your family on worldwide adventures, posters, story and picture books that introduce different countries and cultures can be a wonderful way to foster your child's interest in diversity. Books with stories that take place in the past or future can spark an appreciation for history and stimulate your child's imagination. If you're handy in the kitchen, introducing your child to exotic foods that are associated with interesting places can be a pleasing way to spark interest in those places.

Celebrate your child's learning progress. Posting drawings and photographs throughout kid-oriented places in your home will reinforce the value you place in your child's learning experiences - creating a tradition that can be continued for many years to come.


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