66 Brain-Based Early Learning Activities
to support language in the environment. Feel free to add your own ideas. I
recommend Lessons for Literacy: Promoting Preschool Success (Hansen and
Hansen 2009) as an excellent resource for environmental language ideas.
Label as many concrete things in the environment as possible. Incorporate
environmental print in dramatic play, blocks, and reading centers by stock-
ing the area with
• clipboards with paper and pencils (can be used in restaurant play, for shopping lists, etc.);
• menus from real restaurants (imitate real life, can demonstrate diversity by using a variety of cultural food choices);
• cereal and other real food boxes (connect child to real-world environment, provide font-rich literacy, and can demonstrate
diversity by using a variety of cultural food choices);
• real cans of unopened soup and other items (provide a deeper sensory experience and build muscle and fine-motor control).
Language and Infants
Every activity that you do with infants should be rich with language. Infants’
auditory receptors are wide open as they experience the new and exciting
world unfolding right before their ears. Infants can hear a wide range of
sounds that may not be audible to adults. By experimenting with a variety
of noises, you may be offering infants more sounds than you realize, giv-
ing infants the opportunity to develop their auditory discrimination skills.
Keep a running narrative during your interaction with infants to offer a
rich variety of language. “Eli is reaching for that ball. He is stretching out
his arm. Eli touched the ball. Does Eli like the ball? What is Eli going to do
with the ball?”
Read, read, read, read, and read. Reading to infants (and all children)
has tremendous lifelong benefits. This cannot be emphasized enough. For
starters, when you read to an infant, you typically hold him or sit very close.
This closeness is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You are starting to
build trust with him. You should limit the amount of time you read to just
a few minutes, but you can also encourage the baby to touch the book and
look at the pictures to round out the sensory experience.
Selecting Books to Support Language
When you are selecting books, it’s important to be intentional about the
titles you include. Consider choosing books that have won Caldecott, New-
bery, or other awards, but also take your cues from children. Do books
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