islandparent Things To Do Arts Learning Through Play

Learning Through Play

Family members are the first teachers children encounter. While you are spending precious time with your grandchildren, you can incorporate simple methods to help them become familiar with words and numbers. These skills will set them up for success in school and beyond.

Below, librarians from the Greater Victoria Public Library share ways you can help young children practice using words and numbers. These tried and true methods—popular at the GVPL’s storytimes and other free programming at the library—set the foundation for language, thinking and communication.

Alphabet Game

Take a walk around the block, in the mall or through the library, and, letter by letter, go through the alphabet finding things that start with each letter. Some letters are trickier than others; if you can’t think of a word, look for the letter on a sign or license plate. Not only does this activity build literacy skills, it makes kids more aware of their surroundings.

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Encourage your grandchild to create stories with action figures, dolls and puppets. Grandparents can engage in the storytelling using the CAR method: Comment, Ask, Rephrase. Comment on what the child is doing; ask a question about the action; and rephrase what the child said and add something more. “I see you have a toy giraffe and a bird; what is the giraffe doing with the bird?” “What are they going to do next?” “They’re going to the playground? Are they going to use the swings or the slide first?”

Kitchen Time

Cooking and baking provide myriad opportunities for developing literacy. Following a recipe teaches food and kitchen vocabulary and helps kids practice math concepts while measuring and learning about quantities. They’ll also build fine motor skills by handling utensils and ingredients. Plus, time in the kitchen is time spent building memories and learning about family and nutrition as you teach your grandchild to prepare food. Make something from a recipe passed down through the generations or borrow a cookbook from the library.

I Spy

This classic game helps little ones notice colours, textures and details in the world around them. When it’s their turn to say “I spy with my little eye,” don’t be afraid to ask for hints to keep your grandchild engaged and talking. Taking turns creates a conversation and gets kids chatting, listening, observing and having fun with you, and all the while, they’re building communication skills.


Count the boats on the water; the driftwood at the beach; the swings at the park; the roses in grandma’s garden. Compare the quantities and use them to bridge into a new topic of conversation. “Why do you think there is only one slide but there are four swings?” “Why did Grandma plant 12 tulips and only one rose bush?”

Family Stories

Pull out photo albums and tell stories of the people in it. Young children are especially interested in stories of themselves as well as stories about how they are like or unlike their parents, siblings and other close relatives. Children love learning about where they come from and where they fit in the family tree. Ask open-ended questions: “Why do you think X happened?” “What do you think happened next?”

Sing Songs You Love

“This was your dad’s favourite song when he was a baby.” “I remember my mother singing this lullaby to me.” Sharing songs that are meaningful to you will get you singing together and enjoying each other’s company. Plus, singing builds vocabulary and teaches the rhythm of language, which will help your grandchild read and write.

Write Letters

Become pen pals with your grandchild. Not only will their parents model reading when your letter arrives in the mail, but the kids will also get a chance to interact with words in your handwriting, and then write back, choosing which words and thoughts to communicate. They can practice writing their name at the end of the letter and draw a picture.

Active Reading

There is nothing like cuddling up and enjoying a book. To help your grandchild engage with the book’s content, take your time with reading, and teach through observations: point out features like rhyming words and alliteration; ask your grandchild to identify letters and look for that letter on every page; point out elements of the pictures and talk about them; identify expressions on faces; or imagine what a situation might feel like. Visit a library near you to find new books to love together.

A library card is your passport to learn through play with books, movies, games, music and more. You are welcome to join us with your grandchildren for free year-round programming at a branch near you. Visit today or find a library branch near you at