Teaching Toddlers to Read

January 4, 2013

Use old liquid makeup for a fun learning tool. There are some foundation liquids that I don't like or they get old so I lay waxed paper down and let my granddaughter practice her letter writing. It is a fun, tactile way to use up some of the old makeup instead of throwing it away.

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I came up with this idea when I observed my little boy struggle with his reading. I created an improvised reading tool to make it easier for him to read and pronounce the sounds of different letters.

Movable Reading Card - consonant and vowel game

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I was amazed when I saw my midwife's daughter reading "The Lord of the Rings" at 5 years of age, so I asked her how she learned to read at such a young age. She said the trick is: You start teaching them to read by playing a GAME with them at about 16 - 18 months (or older).


She said "Kids CAN'T read SMALL BLACK letters but CAN read LARGE RED letters".

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A inexpensive game you can create for your students who need some help learning how to put words in alphabetical order.

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Cindy Bailey
December 11, 2004

Simply place the letter on the lid of the plastic tub, and then fill with the toy which begins with that letter. My kids enjoyed playing with this "teacher" when they were small, and as they got older, they enjoyed making them up and giving them as gifts.

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I am a mother of a 21 month old boy and feel we need more structured learning, his language and other skills seem behind his peers. Any tips for teaching or websites, etc. I am interested in all advice. So far I sing the 5 Little Ducks songs, and his ABC's, pray nightly and color most days. But I am sure there is more out there.


Robin from Marietta, GA


January 5, 20070 found this helpful

Does your local library have storytimes??? Ours does and that helped my little ones---we go 2 times a week!!!
Dvds that I would recommend: Baby Einstein series---those are great!! Baby Genius are helpful!!! Boz the Bear is super duper!!! (www.bozthebear.com)
Read lots!!! Little ones love that and its great for them to develop those skills!!!

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January 5, 20070 found this helpful

Is he an only child? or the Youngest? Family rank can have a real impact on language & social development. There are zillions of websites and teacher resources that may be helpful to you. Also, there are very inexpensive computer software programs that may help reinforce some of the lessons you want to teach. You may want to contact your local Intermediate School District - they may have some info./resources that could be helpful, and can pass on contacts for playgroups, early pre-school groups, etc.


Finally, if you are really concerned, don't be afraid to talk to a professional in child development -- that's what they are there for and will have well tested strategies to help your little guy stay on track! Good luck to you!

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January 5, 20070 found this helpful

It sounds like you are on the right track - lots of hands on time. We have four children (ages 1, 2 1/2, 4 1/2 & 8) and have learned that every child is VERY different and what works for one child may not be as effective for another.

Some things I've tried and found to be very well received (hope some may be helpful...):
* Every Wednesday is letter day. We choose a letter out of a bag and try to feature it throughout our day. For example, on "B" day we eat blueberry pancakes, wear a blue shirt, ride a bicycle, bake brownies, etc. On "P" day we pack a picnic and go to the park, etc.


* We have a set of cookie cutters in the shapes of letters and numbers (from Wilton) and use them for lots of different activities -- play-doh, finger jell-o, cut sandwiches/french toast, etc.
* Fridge magnets - you can buy them lots of places or make your own (it's more fun to play with magnets than sit and do flash cards, but you can acomplish the same goal). Check office supply stores or business or REALTOR associations for business card magnets (they already have adhesive on them). Use a word processing program (create business card setting) to make your own magnets featuring shapes, letters, photos of friends/family, colors, whatever you'd like to reinforce with your child. They are inexpensive and you can customize them to your child's specific needs.
* Rhythm and rhyming are really important for lots of later development so We Sing Constantly - everything! We sing ABCs to the tune of "Row Your Boat" or "Twinkle, Twinkle". We sing "Old McDonald" including everything from zebras to cheeseburgers and usually sound effects to go with...

* Lots of arts and crafts (have him color with small pieces of broken crayons - it's really good for helping to develop finer motor skills), anything fuzzy, tickly, ooey-gooey, etc. is all good for development. Puzzles, too!
* Try tub crayons or finger paints - you can draw shapes, names, whatever in the bath and they rinse right off when you're done.
* Basically everything is a game. It keeps me young and teaches them that learning is fun and part of every activity every day.

Check your local bookstore, library, museum/children's museum, children's store, zoo, arts & crafts store, etc. for special programs and story/activity hours. Also check with community education or local community college, they often have classes and community activities for little or no money. (It's fun and beneficial for your son, but also puts you in touch with other parents who may be asking the same questions or going through similar frustrations). Good luck to you!

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January 5, 20070 found this helpful

As the mother of 7 children and a day-care provider for 20 years, my suggestion would be to read to him for 15-20 minutes twice a day. Small children need to hear the correct way to pronounce words and sounds. There is no greater gift to a child than the sound of his mother's voice in a peaceful setting.
I also say what I would like them to say. If the child can say "Milk" when they are thirsty, I reply with, "May I have some milk please?" They pick up the way to say the entire sentence very quickly.
Most importantly be patient and loving. Don't compare your child with others. He will learn and grow at his own pace, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind. I find simple encouragement, like clapping my hands, and saying,"That's great!",
helps them feel loved and eager to please.

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By Cresanna (Guest Post)
January 5, 20070 found this helpful

Please, please, get an evaluation for your child as soon as possible!! Language delays can be an early warning sign of autism and related disorders. Early intervention is key for your child! I work with these precious, delightful children. But so often I wish I could have started working with them much younger. Many parents simply put off their concerns (or are put off by doctors), thinking "he will catch up". It's better to check it out and find out nothing is wrong, rather than to wish you had later. Check out http://www.FirstSigns.org

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January 5, 20070 found this helpful

As an early interventionist, I also strongly recommend you have him evaluated. Chances are it is nothing a little intervention won't help; and if it is something that will need longer term help, better to start early. But please don't be alarmed! Far and away the most common thing my evaluation team sees are (relatively) simple language delays!

The good news is, because he is under 3, you can have him evaluated and any interventions he qualifies for done for free, regardless of your own income. The website for the early intervention program for Georgia is:


Every state offers such services, so other moms can be aware as well. (Just google "early intervention" and "[your state]".)

Good luck. You are a bright and perceptive mom to have picked up on his delays. Whatever intervention he gets will be primarily to teach you strategies for working with him--they don't just come in and work with him and leave. You will feel better equipped, and he will have fun, too.

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By Glinda (Guest Post)
January 5, 20070 found this helpful

My son did not talk as soon as his sisters, I worried too. but, he is 15 years old now, and very smart, a whiz at computers and school. My secret to smart, happy kids, read to them. Picture books for the little ones, my kids favorite at that age was the Poky Little Puppy, I had to read it every day to them. Others too, they grow attached to the books, read them everyday that's ok. My son also loved Dr.Suess, Green Eggs & Ham. My teens still like mom to read a story, more involved of course now. But, kids love to be read to, it also helped my son's reading ability himself. It really works. By the time he was 8, he loved The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , and Treasure Island. Read. (Also, Keep prayer time up , that's great!)

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By Susan (Guest Post)
January 5, 20070 found this helpful

I there. I am a speech pathologist who works with children with delayed speech/language development. One of the best things you can do with him is to talk about EVERYTHING. If you us a personal commenting style of talking such as "You are putting ON your socks." "We are walking up up up the stairs." "This box is heavy." You are building his vocabulary and by keeping the sentences simple, showing him how to talk about things. The second thing I would suggest is that you match his communication. By that I mean, if he is talking in 1-2 word combinations...you talk in 3-4 word combinations like if he says bus you say big bus of big blue bus.

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By nitajaye (Guest Post)
January 5, 20070 found this helpful

I like the link http://www.lilfingers.com it has stories and coloring pages for young children.

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January 6, 20070 found this helpful

Here is a great site for parents or grandparents.
You can post your question there too and will get some help!!

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January 6, 20070 found this helpful

All of the posted tips so far are good, but I would also reccommend a few other things.

READ, READ, READ -- all sorts of books. Go the library for story hour and borrow books. Also get some of your own at garage sales.

Do things with your child -- crafts like playdoh, baking cookies. Talk about the things you are doing like feeding the pigeons in the park. Visit petting zoos and parks talk about the things you are seeing. Talk with your child, not at him.

I am not a great believer in flashcards and such stuff with little kids. Time enough for that when they need to learn their multiplication tables.

Play games that age appropriate -- physical ones such as Simon Says, Duck duck goose, and card games when he is older. Provide toys that encourage conversation and "lets pretend" like dish sets for playing house and little cars or farm equipment for playing make believe worlds.

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By Trudy (Guest Post)
January 6, 20070 found this helpful

I agree that reading is great, but I think 21 months of age is very young to be too worried yet. Please don't fall into the comparison trap either. Living your life and having good interaction with your child/children helps assure that they will develop in their good time. I really fear that a lot of the very early education pushers help to instill unnecessary fears in parents' minds and make them think more structure is needed when, in fact, the kids need time to be kids.

I'm not trying to "poo-poo" your concerns, just remind you that each child (person) is a unique individual and just because they don't do something a quickly as someone else doesn't mean their behind, maybe just not ready yet. Maybe this child will grow up to be a very good listener.


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January 7, 20070 found this helpful

i agree with everything already said, a plastic or cardboard box filled with books sourced cheaply from yard sales , second hand from friends etc , fill it to the brim and let the children read them dont worry about damage scribbles chewing etc ive been in so many houses where there are so many rules and regulations fro the children to use the books like holding them properly and no chewing etc and then they wonder why as they grow older the children arent keen on books, just let them have a hands on approach and treat them the same as toys to be bashed about if they want , they will handle them better and better as they get older and the baby books will end up in the dustbin not family heirlooms ! my second suggestion would be a set of building blocks with numbers and letters on which can also be used for building games and all sorts of other things and maybe a simple shape sorter, these are a fun way fro a toddler to play and have fun and any learning is accidental rather than deliberate

most importantly forget worthy educational toys altogether and have fun

old rolls of wallpaper and a set of crayons are great fro hours of scribbling cheaply or computer print out paper make your own playdo and paint and even glue


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By Monica (Guest Post)
October 29, 20080 found this helpful

WOW !!! I really loved everyone's suggestion. I am also a mother of a beautiful 20 months princess. And i also was wondering the same, "How do I teach my toddler". You guys were great. THANKS!

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October 17, 20090 found this helpful

Have his hearing tested. My son is hard of hearing which made if very difficult to understand why he wan't talking. I KNEW he could hear. I just didn't know that he couldn't hear high frequency sounds like "s" or "f" And don't allow anyone to delay the testing.

It was 1977 in Naperville, Illinois. I took my son to the schools to check his hearing and waited and waited for the promised appointment. Every time I checked they told me to wait longer. Later I found out that, on the advice of the school psychologist, the principal decided they should try "behavior modification techniques" on him before bothering to test his hearing. That meant they pushed him to do what he was told, thinking that he was just stubborn, when he had no idea what he was told to do. He was only just 3 years old! You can imagine how terrible that was for him. He's never been the same happy person that he was before. And this was a GOOD school system: Naperville, Illinois.

A year later a doctor sent us to a college clinic. It took them quite a few sessions to determine what he needed. I leaned later that a professional could have done it in ONE session. Overall, a year passed before he was fitted with hearing aids. Then he learned to talk right away from us and from playing with the neighborhood children.

Yes, as you can tell, I still am upset about this more than 30 years later. My son is in China now, teaching English, but he's never again been light-hearted. So learn form my experience. Don't be too trusting. And have your son's hearing checked. You will probably find that he has no problem, but just to be sure.

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October 17, 20120 found this helpful

Have a look at http://www.readingbyphonics.com

There are a bunch of free printable worksheets you can use to work on with your child, and other activities to help teach reading.

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