The saying ‘it takes a village’ has never been more applicable than in life today. The rising cost of living means it is no longer possible for a primary caregiver to spend all a child’s early years at home. And even for non-working mothers, the busy life of a modern family means that mamas need support!
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. So how do you ensure that these early literacy needs are being met when you can’t always be at home?
For many families, regular care for young children now falls to retired grandparents. In a 2014 study, the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Childhood Education and Care Australia report found that 836,000 Australian children aged 0–12 years were cared for by a grandparent for an average of 10 hours per week.
And this cross-generational care is a wonderful way for children to expand their vocabulary. By bringing it back to basics with songs and stories children might not always hear, and simply having the time to chat without the demands of everyday parenthood, grandparents are becoming instrumental in their grandchildren’s early literacy development.
Here are a few ideas to help grandparents get involved:
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.
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. Yet this is also a great time for kids to wind down with a story. Thankfully, grandparents can get involved– even those that don’t live nearby – by sharing a story with their grandchildren every evening over Skype or Facetime. It frees up parents to get through the household requirements and gives the grandparents a wonderful opportunity to create lasting bonds and memories.
The grandkids are the perfect audience for Grandad’s record collection, and it’s a great way to introduce some words they might not hear every day! Many children nowadays don’t get to hear old music from other generations; whether it’s the Beatles, ABBA or Bananarama, kids love to hear and learn new songs.
Buying books for birthday or Christmas and adding an inscription provides a child with a beautiful memory to treasure, especially when they grow and become parents themselves. This tradition can then grow as the family grows, where members continue to not only share the story, but also the memories attached to it.
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.
Whistling, snapping fingers are all fundamental skills that need to be taught, and grandparents are the perfect teachers! The kids will be so proud to show off their new-found skills, and Grandma will be very proud too!
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.
A trip to the library is so much fun for the little ones, and provides a free, fun and magical time shared with Grandma or Grandad. Today’s libraries are a treasure trove of activities for kids, with cosy reading areas, and toys and games to spark their language. If Grandad wants to sit back and let someone else read the story, the library also hosts Rhymetime and Storytime sessions every week.
Above all, grandparents just need to spend quality time talking, singing and playing with the grandkids. Children thrive on that one-on-one conversation, and every time you chat with them or play with them, you are helping them have the best start in life.