Take time to rhyme. Read rhyming classics, and ask your child to complete lines like, "One fish, two fish, red fish, ____." Or challenge her to make up silly words: "I'm thinking of a word that rhymes with 'wiggle.'" Rhymes, nonsense words, and repetitive refrains help her become sensitive to the sounds in words, an essential skill.
- Fool around with sounds. Switch words in rhymes or jingles to see if your child catches you. For example, "Humpty Dumpty sat on a ball." If he can detect the subtle differences in words, he'll be better prepared to decode words when learning to read.
- Be on the lookout for letters. Point them out on signs, labels and cereal boxes. Slow down your speech to emphasize the sounds in the words: "I see a 'p' in that sign. Can you read it? It says st-ah-p." Ask her to hunt for letters from her name, or to find a word that begins with "P."
- Play "I Spy." On walks or in the car, take turns spotting objects that begin with different letter sounds. "I spy something that begins with B." Work up to more complex challenges, like words that begin with letter blends (such as "brush"). "I spy something that begins with the sound 'brrr.'"
- Sing the name game. Make up silly songs using your child's name: "Matt, Matt sat on a cat," or "Amy, Amy, bo bamy." Encourage him to add his own lines, or maybe even create a new "mommy" or "daddy" song.
- Use the fridge as a blackboard. Write words or short messages with magnetic letters for her to read every morning. Showcase a special letter, and then ask how many things she can find at the dinner table that begin with it. Or designate a word of the day, like "bug," and challenge her to make new words by replacing the first letter.