Even though Albert Einstein was a quiet boy who didn't speak much until about age 3, your preschooler shouldn't take language cues from Mr. Einstein. Toddlers with phonological memory problems have trouble remembering the building blocks to make words. Phonemes are the basic sound units, such as the "r" in "rug" or the "m" in "mug," that give language meaning. Practice activities incorporating these phonological building blocks assist your toddler in remembering sounds. Not to worry, it's not difficult for most!
You label leftovers in the refrigerator to remind you of the contents, and children with phonological memory problems learn the same way. Labels help reinforce visual sound clues for your child, according to the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Put up paper sticky labels for the items in your home, using large capital letters on the labels -- at least five times the size of the other letters on the label -- to reinforce the phoneme sounds. Labeling items with similar phonemes, such as your child's stuffed toy "Bug." Put a large "r" on the label for the "Rug," and stick a "Mug" label on your coffee cup. Pretty soon, your little one will have this down pat!
Bathtub Word Practice
Instead of getting soaked with water when you help your toddler at bath time, fill the tub with foam letters and distract your preschooler with some basic phoneme practice. Use homemade or commercially produced foam letters to spell phonemes and stick these to wet walls or the side of the bathtub. Spell new words or use the words from other phoneme practice sessions during the week to reinforce what your toddler learned. For instance, wet and stick a large foam "R," "M" and "B" on the tub side and practice words using the phonemes, including "rug" and "mug."
Sounding and Touching
Your toddler learns words by remembering the basic building blocks of language by isolating the basic sounds -- the phonemes. Start out with a focus on a group of five phonemes, either vowels or consonants, and practice those until your preschooler masters the group. You work hard to teach your child to avoid random touching, but this activity asks you to grit your teeth to benefit education. Start the touching part of the activity after your toddler masters a set of five phonemes. Walk around the house with your toddler and touch everything with the basic sounds reviewed during the practice session. Some common household phonemes include house, mouse, and blouse. Say the sounds out loud and then do the activity again -- this time competing with your preschooler in a "game" of speed touching -- such fun she'll have!
It's hard work to learn words and harder work to put the words into sentences -- even for adults. Singing offers one way to lighten up the learning duties. Even if you're embarrassed to sing in the shower, find a few basic songs to adapt into a serenade using some basic phonemes. Make up your own songs using the phonemes learned during the week, if you love to improvise. Ask your toddler to sing a silly song with "mug," "rug" and "bug," for example, using a melody borrowed from another favorite song. Stress the phoneme sounds in an exaggerated way to enhance learning. The song might sound silly, but the relaxed learning makes practice sessions easier -- for both you and your toddler.
- Fairleigh Dickinson University: Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing
- Broward County (FL) Public Schools: Phonemic Awareness
- SIL International: What is a Phoneme?
- SIL International: What is Phonology?
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Phoneme
- Reading Rockets: Phonemic Activities for the Preschool or Elementary Classroom
- Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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