Autumn is a perfect time of year to take children outside to experience a unique aspect of developing literacy skills…the development of sensory skills. Why is developing sensory skills so crucial to developing literacy? Just as a new born cannot stand up and walk or run, the development of literacy skills is a process much like that of building a home, from the foundation up. Infants cannot open their mouth and recite a poem or pick up a pencil and write their name, but when an infant is introduced to a wide array of textures, sights, and sounds, the foundation of literacy is being laid.
Every skill a baby, toddler, and young child learns, will lead to the ability to read and write. Infants begin this process by developing fine motor skills, such as picking up a cheerio or fingering bits of yarn on a toy. Toddlers learn rhythmic clapping games, poems, and songs. Toddlers further develop fine motor skills by holding crayons and coloring. Preschool aged children take everything they have learned since infancy and practice the alphabet, counting, writing their name, and reading simple text. The following activities by childhood stage will aid in the development of sensory skills as well as get some fresh autumn air.
Infants: Take the baby outside to crawl through the leaves and enjoy the sound and texture of dry fallen leaves.
Toddlers: Collect rocks, twigs, pieces of fallen bark, and leaves. Touch the items, talk about them, and build nature sculptures that can remain outdoors or make a nature collage by arranging leaves, twigs, and grasses on a piece of clear contact paper and then placing another piece of contact paper on top, sealing the pieces of nature. The nature collage can then be hung on a window or wall for display.
Preschoolers: Go on a nature walk. Turn over fallen logs and rocks to discover what may lie underneath. Collect different leaves to be taken home. Learn what type of tree the leaf fell from using a book such as, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Read the book together during a picnic lunch and then build your own leaf men using the leaves collected on the walk, a sheet of card stock, and glue.
Written by: Suzanna Tolman
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