How to prepare a two-year-old for reading

Suppose you have a two-year-old that you want to prepare for reading.  Do you

  • Enroll the child in an excellent tutoring center?
  • Use flash cards for sight words?
  • Play Simon Says?
  • Do nothing.  Two is too early for reading lessons?

Simon Says touch your tummyResearch at Oregon State University shows that playing Simon Says, Red Light Green Light and other games that require a child to listen, focus, and act appropriately may be the best way to prepare a child for learning.

The idea is to take a simple game, add increasingly complicated directions, and the child will learn how to learn.  One example of an increasingly complicated direction is when the child has to do the opposite of the direction.  So if Simon Says “Rub your tummy,” the child would rub her lower back.

An increasing body of research shows that when a child masters focusing and self-control, the child will do better in learning reading, math and other cognitive skills.

Singing and clapping are additional “games” that improve learning skills.  Songs sung in rounds like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are difficult for a young child to master, but worth the effort.  Start by having the child sing along with you, learning the words and the tune.  Later clap to the beat.  Still later introduce the idea of rounds.

(For more information, see “Simon Says Don’t Use Flashcards” in the August 23, 2012, issue of The New York Times.)

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