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Grandparents play an important role in a child’s early literacy

The saying ‘it takes a village’ has never been more applicable than in life. The rising cost of living means it is no longer possible for a primary caregiver to spend all of their child’s early years at home. Even for non-working mothers, the busy life of a modern family means support is necessary!

However, the first five years are critical for a child’s early literacy development and the primary caregiver is the most important teacher in that growth. How do you ensure these early literacy needs are being met when you can’t always be at home?

Grandparents come to the rescue

For many families, the regular care for their young children falls to retired grandparents. Child care places are at a premium and the cost of care is on the rise. In fact, Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures from 2017 show roughly one quarter (26 per cent) of all children in child care are being cared for by their grandparents.

This cross-generational care is a wonderful way for children to expand their vocabulary. Grandparents can bring it back to basics with songs and stories children might not always hear. Their ability to simply chat without the demands of everyday parenthood, means grandparents are becoming instrumental in their grandchildren’s early literacy development.

How you can get grandparents involved

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Children love to listen to stories and grandparents have a wealth of experience and knowledge to impart. Whether it’s orating a story they knew as a child, telling stories about themselves when they were little or making up stories, hearing lots of words is essential to early literacy development.

Video calls in the evening

With dinner to organise and lunchboxes to pack (and let’s not mention the chaos of bath time!), early evening is often the hardest part of the day for parents. However, it’s a great time for kids to wind down with a story. Grandparents can get involved – even those that don’t live nearby – by sharing a story with their grandchildren every evening over WhatsApp, Skype of FaceTime. It frees up parents to get through the household requirements and gives the grandparents a wonderful opportunity to create lasting bonds and memories.

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Share songs

Grandkids are the perfect audience for grandma’s or grandad’s record collection. It’s a great way to introduce some words they might not hear every day!

Many children nowadays don’t get to hear music from other generations, but giving the grandies control of the playlist means your kids will be exposed to the Beatles, ABBA, Bananarama, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin and U2. Kids love to hear and learn new songs.

Buy books

Buying books for a birthday or Christmas and adding an inscription provides a child with a beautiful memory to treasure. This is especially true as children get older and even become parents themselves. This tradition can grow as the family grows, where members continue to not only share the story, but also the memories attached to it.

Teach a hobby

If Grandma and Grandad love sewing, knitting, gardening or woodworking, these are all invaluable skills to share. Many traditional ‘maker’ skills are being lost, so grandparents are often the best people to teach the younger generation.

Other teachable skills

Whistling and snapping fingers are also fundamental skills that need to be taught. Grandparents are the perfect teachers! The kids will be so proud to show off their new-found skills, and the grandies will be proud of the role they played too!

Involve them in the day-to-day

Children love nothing more than being involved in whatever you are doing. Whether it’s shopping, gardening or household maintenance, kids are fascinated and dying to learn new things. Everything they are involved in, you are talking and helping to expand their vocabulary.

Head to the library

A trip to the library is so much fun for Little Ones. It provides a free, fun and magical time shared with their grandparents. Today’s libraries are a treasure of activities for kids. You’ll find cosy reading areas, and toys and games to spark their language. If the grandies want to sit back and let someone else read the story, most libraries also host Rhymetime and Storytime sessions every week.

Quality time

Above all, grandparents simply need to spend quality time talking, singing and playing with their grandkids. Children thrive on that one-on-one conversation. Every time you chat with them or play with them, you are helping them have the best start in life.

You might also like…

Early literacy games – anytime and anywhere
Dads matter! Early literacy tips for dads
Early Literacy: What is it, and what do I do?


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By Claire Gilligan
WITH A FIFO HUSBAND WHO WORKS AWAY WEEKS AT A TIME, CLAIRE ENJOYS FINDING FUN, LOCAL THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO VISIT TO OCCUPY HER AND HER TWO GIRLS' TIME. ORIGINALLY FROM SYDNEY, CLAIRE AND HER FAMILY LOVE ALL THE THINGS THE SUNSHINE COAST HAS TO OFFER AND ENJOY SHOWING IT OFF TO VISITING FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Kids on the Coast is a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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