Raising a Lifelong Learner

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Raising a Lifelong Learner
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You're mom: the first teacher your children will ever have. Before they set foot in a classroom, they've soaked up the basics of language and learning. From the words you use to the activities you provide, you are a key player in the shaping of their sponge-like brains. Take a minute to look at your daily schedule and think about how you interact with your child. Do you read aloud and write down things to share? Do you talk or sing to your child? If so, you're already building enriching experiences.

ABC -- Always Be Chatting
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ABC -- Always Be Chatting

Children learn language by hearing words spoken aloud. "The more you talk with your little one and the more words you use when he is present, the more words your child will have in his vocabulary,” said Renee Mizrahi, a reading specialist and author of "Secrets to Reading Success." Use any opportunity to chat with your child -- when you're feeding her, bathing her or taking her on errands, narrate everything going on around you.

Early Literacy: More than ABCs

Build Their Dexterity
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Build Their Dexterity

When their hands are big enough, start building your children's fine motor skills with activities that involve molding modeling clay or dough. From there, work up to stringing beads and painting pictures. Over time, the improved manual dexterity helps children transform squiggly lines into legible writing.

Set a Good Example
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Set a Good Example

Kids are natural mimics. If they see you setting aside time to read, they may want to follow suit. Incorporating reading and writing into your own schedule demonstrates desirable behavior for them to adopt.

Take Advantage of Their Interests
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Take Advantage of Their Interests

Children are naturally curious and develop unique interests on their own. Use these passions as a springboard for learning by acquiring books on favorite subjects and encouraging creative play, including writing and drawing.

Set Aside Creative Space
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Set Aside Creative Space

Foster a fertile imagination by giving your child a designated creative space where he can go to be artistic and inventive. Stock the space with washable pens, scrap paper, old magazines and other art materials your child enjoys. Encourage him to pend time doodling, writing stories or "playing office."

Sing, Sing, Sing
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Sing, Sing, Sing

"Phonemic awareness skills start with listening skills -- teach children to pay attention to all kinds of sounds. Start by playing musical chairs or rhythm clapping games,” says Kristen Bjorn, reading consultant and curriculum developer. “These skills lead right into phonics." Mizrahi suggests singing to your baby when you change her diaper, give her a bath, feed her meals and go about daily activities.

Bring Back the Bedtime Story
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Bring Back the Bedtime Story

One of the best ways to develop literacy skills is reading to your child for 20 minutes each day, says Susan B. Von Derau-Cornelius, early literacy specialist for the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, California. If you pencil this 20 minutes into your schedule around bedtime, it will sync up nicely with "wind down time."

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