Thursday, September 25, 2014

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: The Elevator

Parents like me who bring their strollers on public transportation spend a lot of time in elevators. For me to go just one stop on the Metro to visit my local library, I have to use a total of five! Luckily, short elevator rides are perfect windows of opportunity for reinforcing early literacy skills. Here are some ideas for early literacy activities you can do with your kids between floors.
  • Talk about the letters on the elevator buttons. At the Metro station, we typically encounter four letters: T for Trains, S for Street, M for Mezzanine, and B for the pedestrian Bridge. When I press a button, I usually tell Little Miss Muffet what I’m doing: “Mommy pressed S for street!” As she gets older, I will let her help me decide which letter to press based on beginning letter sounds.
  • Review the concepts of up and down. Up and down are words that little ones tend to add to their vocabulary very early on, as they help them communicate when they wish to be carried and when they wish to be allowed to walk on their own. When you approach the elevator with your child, think aloud as you decide which button to press. “We’re going down to the mezzanine to buy a fare card.” or “We’re going up to the fourth floor to meet Daddy for lunch.” Remind your child of the meaning of these words by pointing in the corresponding direction. As your child gets older, ask him to point on his own to demonstrate his understanding. 
  • Read signs. What better way to teach your child about print awareness than to read the signage posted in the elevator? Our local elevators all have printed warnings about the use of bicycles within the Metro system, as well as information about who to call in an emergency. Some of them also have wordless signs to inform riders that smoking is prohibited, or that handicapped access is available. Reading these signs aloud to your children helps them appreciate that words and symbols have meaning, and that reading is helpful and necessary in any and every environment.
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