Episode 03 – Foundations for Reading & Spelling Part 1

In this episode of Chatabout Children™ Podcast, we look at the foundations of learning to read and spell with a real focus on preschoolers – children who are from 3 to 5 years of age. This is part 1 of this comprehensive topic, so I hope you stay tuned.

Speech and Language Milestones

Learning to speak and communicate is a crucial part of a child’s development because it will help them progress in their early school years in terms of mastering those rules of language.

Even though development will vary for each child, it is important to have a rough guide (or milestones) as to what typical development is and you can ascertain if your child might need a bit more help.

Milestones for 3-5 year olds:

  • 3 years of age
    • Children at 3 years of age understand more complex directions (2-part instructions), WH Questions (What, Where and Who). Different concepts, and they can sort items into groups when asked.
    • In terms of expressive language, they are able to say 4-5 words in a sentence and they start to have a conversation with you.
    • When it comes to play skills, this is the age when they start playing beside other children and start role playing games.
  • 4 years of age
    • Children at 4 years of age children understand most questions about their daily routine, more WH questions (and answer those related to a story they just heard), and they are showing an awareness that words may start or finish with the same sounds.
    • In terms of their speaking, sentences are longer now, making use of connecting words (and, but, because), they are able to describe or recount something that they had just done, asking a lot of questions, and you’ll also notice lots of concepts developing.
    • As to play skills, they are now playing in small groups, they are continuing their pretend play and they are starting to play games with simple rules.
  • 5 years of age
    • Children at 5 years of age understand longer instructions (3-part instructions), starting to understand “before and after instructions” and they understand instructions without having to stop and listen.
    • They start speaking well-formed sentences understood by most people, turn-taking in a longer conversation, and tell simple stories with a beginning, middle and end.
    • Play continues to be quite imaginative, they start to negotiate, you’ll find that they include other things — things they haven’t experienced like space.

Speech sounds

  • At 4 years of age, a child can say most of the consonant and vowels sounds correctly, and between 4 and 5 some of their pre-literacy skills start to be a little bit reinforced — rhyming words and syllables (we will discussed this more in part 2).
  • At age 5, they may still have a bit of trouble with the r sound, replacing it with w like “wabbit” instead of “rabbi”. Also, they confuse the th sound with an f sound like “fank you” instead of “thank you”. Another common one is a lisp, where the s goes to a th sound like “it’s thunny outside” instead of “it’s sunny outside”.

A child speaking another language at home (aside from English)

  • If you speak a foreign language at home, you can still use the milestones I mentioned earlier as a guide and apply to the dominant language spoken at home. But if you are still not convinced, it is best to consult with a speech pathologist about this.

What to do if you are concerned after learning the milestones?

  • If you are concerned that your child has not reached the milestones we discussed earlier at her age level, then have a chat with your medical professional or family doctor, get the child’s hearing checked or contact your local speech pathologist.

6 practical, easy-to-apply strategies on how to power up your child’s vocabulary

  • Children between 2 and 5 years of age learn at a really extraordinary pace. They understand and remember words that they may have heard once or twice (warning: be careful with your own language). So a strong vocabulary helps a child to create a message and information that they want to express successfully.

Here’s how you can encourage the growth of your child’s vocabulary in 6 easy ways:

  1. Interactive book-sharing – Make book-reading engaging and a little bit more fun, not just one-way. Go to your local library for variety and to save on costs.
  2. Speak to your child using a variety of words – Be mindful of your own vocabulary. Rather than using just one word to describe something, add other words that give the same meaning (e.g. for “big” use also “enormous”, “huge”, “gigantic” etc.)
  3. Be specific and descriptive – The more words your child hears daily, the more they will likely absorb them and use them. For “teddy bear” say “teddy bear with the blue pants and striped shirt” instead, for example.
  4. Use everyday life opportunities to reinforce words and alphabet – Those routines that happen every day are perfect for you to talk to your child about what’s happening at that time. For example at bath time say: “Pouring water in the big blue cup. Pouring, pouring, pouring.”
  5. Make label cards for items around the house – For example, in a bedroom, label simple words like a bed or a rug and also talk about the letters and the sounds they make in those words like b for bed.
  6. Look at sorting common household items – This will help your child organize information in their brain and gives them a chance to see what they’re hearing. For example sorting socks, shoes, or pencils by color or size.

Screen time habits

Screen time is so easily accessible these days and it is said to contribute to a language delay and social skills difficulties especially if the screentime is so excessive that it takes away from human interaction time.

One of the parenting websites here in Australia recommends that children under 2 years of age should have to steer clear of the screen altogether, which I did for my own children. For Children 2-5 years of age, the recommendation is no more than an hour a day and for 5-18 year olds, it should be no more than 2 hours a day.

In essence, just exercise some common sense and moderation when it comes to screen time and it should not replace human interaction.

You’ve now had an understanding of the milestones for speech sound, language and play skills. For any other concerns, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

In the next episode of The Chatabout Children™ podcast, we talk about part 2 of the foundations to read and spell, in particular, we’ll talk about pre-literacy skills. 

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Any information and links presented within the Chatabout Children™ with Sonia Bestulic podcast are aimed to provide general information and advice only.
Information is to be used at the discretion of the consumer/ listener. The information presented does not replace or substitute the expert advice received from a direct consultation with the relevant qualified professional.


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