- Read aloud as a family. My husband and I began a practice of reading aloud together before we were even married, and it is a tradition we continue now that we have children. Though our kids are small, we don't just read picture books, but poetry, articles, essays, interesting quotations, as well as children's novels, classics, and anything else we think is worth hearing. Sometimes our audience is our daughter (age 2), but other times, we are reading just for the sake of it, knowing that some of it goes over her head, but that some of it sinks in too. By reading aloud as a family in full hearing of all family members you demonstrate very strongly that reading is an important part of your family life.
- Look at magazines and point out familiar objects, words and letters. Little Miss Muffet is obsessed with magazines. She does often prefer to rip them, but she has also learned a variety of vocabulary from pointing out different things to me in Parents magazine, or in catalogs we receive in the mail. When she was really little, she liked to look at pictures of babies, but more and more, she is interested in knowing the names of household objects, or of letters in different typefaces. If you have a basket of magazines near your couch, or a stack on your coffee table, don't hesitate to let your kids enjoy them. As long as there isn't any objectionable content, these can be a great way to incorporate novel language into your everyday lives.
- Tell stories about family photos on the wall and in albums. Kids love hearing stories about the people in their family. Use family photos as jumping off points for telling tales about your own life before your kids were born, and your kids' own experiences at ages they were too little to remember. If you have long-distance relatives, a photo album is also a great way to teach kids their names so they won't be total strangers each time you get together. Older photographs of grandparents or great-grandparents are also often very interesting to kids, for whom the 20th century feels like ancient history.
- Put together an alphabet puzzle. A table or space on the living room floor is a perfect place to put together an alphabet puzzle. Make it an interactive family experience by dividing up the letters so that everyone is responsible for a certain few. Have your children figure out whose turn it is based on which letter comes next.
Will you have a Christmas tree in your living room this holiday season? If so, you might also enjoy this post!