Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just the Same Only Different!

One of the benefits of signing with babies is that it increases their interest in books (because it enables them to take a more active role in book-reading), an interest that helps pave the way to early literacy. But did you know that you can actually provide simple, fun activities starting even earlier that can help too? Here’s your tip for today from our book, Baby Minds.

One of the fundamental skills necessary for reading is the ability to quickly detect the differences between shapes. After all, that’s all that letters really are—shapes on a contrasting background. One way to lay the foundation for reading, then, is to expose your baby to shapes so that he can begin to differentiate curves and orientation. Here is an idea to help your baby begin to do just that.

I like to call this tip “Just the same, only different” –which sounds like a contradiction but really does fit. What you do is provide your baby with two pictures that are the same in most ways, but differ in one or two minor but perceivable ways. (The younger the baby, the more salient the differences should be.) Put them somewhere where your child is likely to look at them. For example, you might attach two identical pictures of a favorite character—Big Bird, perhaps-- to a wall by the crib, high chair, or changing table. Then make one different—maybe by adding a mustache and beard with a marker. In glancing at the pictures, your baby will, at first, just sense that they are not identical. This almost automatically leads to a search for the discrepancy—in other words, an urge to “compare and contrast” the two pictures. In this simple way you’ve given your baby something to think about—some “food for thought,” if you will—and in doing so you’re providing practice in recognizing subtle differences between similar shapes, thereby paving the way for letter recognition!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow "Baby Signs" on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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