Tag Archives: let’s read

The Ice-cream Shop

A recent conversation and pretend-play session with my three-year-old granddaughter centred around an ice-cream shop. Annie is a little chatterbox and loves ‘pretend play’.  She will spend hours occupying herself creating conversations between her toys and loves to engage any willing members of the family in her imaginative world.

“Would you like to come to my ice-cream shop, Grandma?” I didn’t need a second invitation to spend some quality time with this special little person. I was offered a range of ice-cream flavours. The conversation went like this: “You could have mango, strawberry, blueberry, chocolate, vanilla, pineapple, or plumb.”
I asked, “Do you have ginger ice-cream? Ginger ice-cream is my favourite.”
“Well, no Grandma, I don’t have ginger ice-cream but I could ask my cook to make some.”

While the cook was making the ginger ice-cream, Annie announced that she would sing to me so, with a little toy accordion, she squeezed out a tune and made up a song about Grandma coming to her ice-cream shop. At the conclusion of the performance and after a round of applause from a delighted grandma, she announced, “I’ll go and see if the cook has finished making your ice-cream now, Grandma.” She promptly returned with my special order of ginger ice-cream. I licked my ice-cream with great approval. “This is the most delicious ice-cream I have ever tasted. How do you make such beautiful ice-cream?”

To my surprise, this three-year-old replied, “The ingredients are sugar, eggs, cream, vanilla and ginger and I mix them. I don’t cook them, I just mix them.” I was impressed on three counts, firstly that she knew the word ‘ingredients’, secondly that she could list a range of ingredients that were entirely appropriate to make ice-cream and thirdly that she knew that ice-cream didn’t need to be cooked. Our conversation continued, “Do you think your cook could make me another ginger ice-cream?”

“Well no, Grandma, he can’t.” “Why not,” I asked.  ‘Well he died,” was the totally unexpected reply. “Oh dear,” I said. “That is terrible. Why did he die?” “Well Grandma, he just didn’t eat healthy food.”

The pretend play continued for over an hour with many servings of ice-cream, bad batches of ice-cream that had to be thrown out, a visit to the ice-cream shop by Grandpa and endless chatter.

I was enthralled by this pretend play experience and amazed by the imagination, creativity, knowledge and language skills of a three-year-old to be able to engage in such a detailed conversation. By the age of three, this little one has mastered complex sentence construction and can correctly use nouns (singular and plural), pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs in various tenses, along with clauses joined by conjunctions in a sequence.

Not only is all of this grammar in place, but there is also an understanding of the importance of eating healthy food and ingredients to make ice-cream! I wonder what else is being stored in that little mind.

In visiting schools in our local region, we have heard that some schools are introducing ‘pretend play’ into the prep classrooms because, increasingly, children are coming to school with limited experience of pretend play. I wonder if its absence is having an adverse effect on our children. Pretend play is a vital part of language development for young children.  In our increasingly fast-paced society and with the proliferation of electronic devices, perhaps we are not finding as much time to spend on the simple things like talking, reading and pretending with our children.

…and I am becoming increasingly aware of the valuable contribution grandparents can make in the lives of young children. While parents are extremely busy with careers and the ever-increasing need to work more, the one thing that many grandparents have, especially those who have retired, is time. I am convinced that the best inheritance I can leave to my children, is to invest time in my grandchildren.

Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti!

My son was preparing lunch for my grandchildren, while their mother was away for the day. He was catering for an 18-month old, a three-year old and four-year old.  He announced, “What do you want for lunch today?” and then proceeded to list the options which included some left-overs from the day before and some quick-and-easy options. The list was something like, “There is chicken and corn soup, some salad and ham, or you could have a wrap or a peanut butter sandwich or spaghetti on toast and there are bananas, apples and mandarins in the fruit bowl.”

I was satisfied that, in the absence of their health-conscious mother, this was a reasonable menu that provided some healthy eating options from a range of food groups.

The three-year-old and four-year-old were well able to articulate what they wanted and what they didn’t want. The three-year-old clearly stated, “I don’t like chicken and corn soup. I want ham and salad in a wrap,” while the four-year-old chorused, “Spahgetti, Spaghetti, Spaghetti! I want Spaghetti on toast!”

The 18-month old, whose vocabulary consisted of only a few words such as ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’ and ‘no’, was unable to verbalise his menu preference. He had only been walking for about four months, but suddenly and silently disappeared at lightning speed through the kitchen and into the pantry. He emerged within a few seconds carrying a can of spaghetti, making it quite clear what he wanted for lunch. Although he was unable to speak, he had a clear grasp of the conversation and knew exactly what was being discussed – spaghetti was on the menu for lunch and that was what he wanted. He was also well aware that the spaghetti came in cans and where it was stored in the pantry.

This simple little action of a toddler running into the pantry and coming out with a can of spaghetti, demonstrated clearly what Let’s Read program advocates.  Reading (and speaking) to your children from birth is vital for the development of their language. Long before children can speak, they are listening, learning words and developing their vocabulary.  It stands to reason, that the more words they hear, the more words they will learn and understand. There are numerous ways to increase the number of words our babies and toddlers hear. This can be done by constantly talking and describing what you are doing during the day, making a running commentary of the mundane activities of the day, singing songs to your children and reading stories. Exposure to language in the early years is a great investment in a child’s education and increases their readiness for school.

My 18-month old grandson was given his menu preference for lunch that day, and unsurprisingly, because he was able to choose what he wanted, devoured a generous helping of spaghetti while I sat back and contemplated the wonderful capacity of the human brain and the importance of generous helpings of exposure to language to build healthy young minds.

Reading to Babies

When do I start reading to my child?

We all want the best for our children. If our kids are happy, healthy and doing well, then life is good. Our children are born with 100 billion neurons in their brains, and the key development stage is from birth through to age 8. During this time, our kids’ brains are a hive of electrical activity, with brain cells and neurons making connections at astonishing speeds of up to two million connections in a minute.

What can we do to make sure that our children are developing the required skills for them to succeed at school and at life? Reading with our children is the single most important activity that you can undertake to develop a child’s future reading and writing skills. Reading aloud to children also supports their development in other ways – it provides intensive language exposure and supports language development, promotes parent-child bonding and socialisation, and helps parents relate positively to their children.

It doesn’t matter what you read. It can be books, newspapers, magazines, comics, street signs, catalogues or shop signs. Your child will develop important skills that will enable them to thrive at kinder and school.

So when do we start? You should begin reading to your babies from birth, or at the very least, from 3 or 4 months of age.

Children love the sound of your voice, and soon enjoy the pictures and stories contained in books. Nursery Rhymes and singing songs are also great ways to help your child’s brain develop.

Books are a great present for children, so if you are a parent, an aunt or uncle, grandparent or friend and you can’t think of what to get for a birthday or Christmas, then a book is a great option.

Here are some great tips for reading to infants aged around 4 months to 12 months. These tips from the Royal Children’s Hospital Let’s Read program are helpful for older babies as well.

Whe reading with babies, they like:

  • being close to you
  • watching your face and lips move
  • hearing the sound of your voice
  • listening to different sounds and music
  • hearing same words, rhymes and stories over and over again
  • looking at books with colours, faces and pictures of other babies
  • touching and tasting books

How you can help your baby grow into a strong reader:

  • smile and hold your baby close so they can see your face and the book
  • copy the sounds your baby makes e.g. “da-da-da”
  • help your baby bounce and move to the rhythm of your voice or music
  • talk or sing about what you are doing when caring for your baby
  • notice what your baby is looking at and name it
  • share stories with your baby in the language you feel most comfortable with
  • start at the front of a book—you don’t have to finish it, a few pages is great!
  • keep books in easy reach of your baby
  • join the library—it’s free and fun. We have got great libraries right across the Wimmera Mallee and they have lots of books for you to borrow. You will be made very welcome and your local librarian will help you select some great books for you and your children.