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Promoting literacy development in babies and toddlers

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It’s possible to promote the development of literacy in babies and toddlers. Here are some great ways you can start the process today.

Literacy as a life-long process instead of a one-off goal

The media often seems to lament the death of the written word for our children. According to the news, the days of children reading novels are long gone only to have been replaced with the beeping and blooping of screens and games. We hear all of these negative messages about decreased attention spans and what it means for our children’s literacy. The development of literacy becomes a point of stress for many parents, particularly with the perceived looming threat of NAPLAN, down the road, and we often fall into the trap of giving up before we start.

It’s too hard. I don’t know what to do. Leave it for their prep teachers. That’s what kindy is for. Sound familiar?

It’s possible to promote the development of literacy in babies and toddlers as a natural part of their growth. Just like rolling, walking and talking. Literacy development at a young age will act at the building blocks to ensure your child is able to read, write, interpret and analyse right alongside their classmates.

Strategies for developing literacy in babies and toddlers

Flashcards NOT required! Promoting literacy in babies and toddlers can be a natural process that’s enjoyable for the whole family. No chores, achievement charts or rewards required.


When asked by parents of high school children how to improve writing and spelling, my number one answer was always “Reading”. A child who reads will understand words, concepts, punctuation and grammar in context. Patterns of speech will be familiar to them and they will have positive associations with books and texts.

Reading to your child is not only an excellent way to promote literacy in babies and toddlers but also a beautiful addition to your day. Take ten minutes whenever you can to read with your child and watch the magic unfold.


Get pens, crayons and pencils in your children’s hands whenever possible. Even the marks that little ones make can serve to further the development of literacy in babies and toddlers. Guide them to grip loosely to help make accurate marks. A lot of work done in kindergarten and prep will focus on how they are holding writing implements to prepare them for school. Making sure this is a part of daily practice as a tiny tot will go a long way towards promoting this as a more natural skill.

Literacy in babies and toddlers

This is not outside of the realm of possibility for a parent from a non-educational background. Ensuring our children are literate means they will be able to be active citizens who understand the world around them. Putting small measures in place when they are tiny will create habits to last a lifetime.

Louise Lavery is a content writer and the online content manager for Families Magazine & Families Online - a resource for parents with children aged 0-13. Families Magazine is the Clever Resource for Thinking Parents.


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