5 Essential Skills

Being a baby and a toddler can be more work than parents might realize. Everything for them is a chance to learn and helps prepare them to enter preschool and kindergarten. There are many fun activities that help prepare little ones for these milestones in their lives and prepare them to continue learning and growing. These transitions are not any easier on a child's parents. It can often feel as though the plan for raising babies and toddlers changes with each leap in development. We hope that the skills listed below will help parents navigate the transitions with clarity and skill.


One of the biggest learning opportunities for young children is being able to play. Children learn sharing and teamwork though play. They also can learn vocabulary and complex concepts.

Parents can assist learning by creating activities such as making a color game out of stacking blocks or racing cars. A game of playing in a kitchen can become an exploration of vocabulary and healthy eating. Playing with stuffed animals can awaken a child's imagination, compassion, kindness, and sharing.

At our libraries, we offer families a chance to have a safe place to play and engage in fun playtime activities that will help children start this journey.

  • Pretend and Play offers a series of toy stations for babies, toddlers, and parents to share together.
  • Lapsit and Toddler Storytimes for babies and very young children offer a chance to play with other youngsters in addition to stories and songs. The toys we supply help with early concepts such as motor skills, imagination, and early literacy.


As adults, we talk all the time with friends, family, co-workers, and strangers. Children of all ages should be included in the conversations and addressed directly no matter what a parent might be doing. Talk to them about objects, about colors, about the chores being done in their presence because these simple conversations will help them learn vocabulary and begin developing basic communication skills. These conversations also help deepen the bond between parent and child.

For babies

  • Simple, short sentences work best.
  • Describe what you are doing: giving them a bath, preparing their lunch, changing their clothes.
  • Name objects near babies to help them make connections between the item and the sound of its name: bottle, blanket, puppy, rattle, etc.
  • Share about items being held or handled around babies. "Do you see the banana? It's a yellow fruit."

For Toddlers

  • Ask toddlers questions and allow them to answer. Put on good listening ears to grasp their communication skills and the way their little minds are working. "Is the dog running?" "Where are you going with your car?"
  • Help children improve their reasoning skills with games: Guessing Games, I-Spy, How Many
  • Take field trips. Visit the local farmer's market and talk about the new sights and smells. Go to a zoo and talk about the animals they see. This opens the children to new experiences, new words, and new conversations.


  • Singing is important even for developing minds, something scientists believe reach out before a baby is born. Songs can be the first language babies are exposed to and it can carry with them as they grow. Singing to children and babies helps cement the parent-child bond. It is much stronger with the parent doing the singing and not CDs or the radio. This aids in language and emotional development for the baby and the direct human contact it requires.
  • Songs can introduce daily transitions: lunch to bath, play to nap
  • Songs are both fun and educational and can be a little bit silly. Use songs with movement to add in help with motor skills, like The Wheels on the Bus and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.
  • Songs where children are invited to echo the words help increase listening.
  • Songs are a great source of family fun.


Reading is an essential skill to prepare young children for kindergarten and can be one of the most complex. Staring with the Alphabet Song and making books a part of bedtime from birth is a great way to get started. Board books are perfect those of the youngest ages as they teach basic concepts - the ABCs, numbers, seasons, colors, and shapes.

One of the biggest issues when learning to read is a limited vocabulary, so help children increase their word use through talking and reading. We offer a 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program that encourages families to read 1,000 books to children leading up to the start of school. One book a night for five years is well above the 1,000 books requirement and gives the little ones a strong grasp on reading, vocabulary, story, and imagination.


Being able to understand the shape of letters helps preschool aged children to recognize the letter on sight. This sight recognition aids in the process of learning to read and can make it a little easier for children to grasp. Add in drawing to make things more fun and help with the motor skills needed to write properly. Use crayons or big pencils. Going high tech with apps that can be found for smartphones and tablets can also be useful for making learning to write rewarding and entertaining.