Sitio en español

Tip Sheets

IEL Tip Sheet: Things to Do While You’re Waiting: Language and Literacy About

It's happening again! You're running errands with your children and suddenly you're stuck—in traffic, at the clinic, in the checkout line. Many parents find that playful learning activities can help reduce children's impatience when they have to wait. You can help your child get ready to read while you're on the move!

Talk and listen.

  • While you wait, try asking your child, “What are you thinking?” He will be glad to know you care about what he thinks and does.
  • Create a story together. One of you starts it with a sentence or a few lines. Then everyone else takes turns adding a sentence or a few lines until “The End.” Or try retelling a favorite story or reciting a favorite poem together. Keep in mind that correcting a child’s speech too often may make her want to stop talking to you! It’s important to pay attention to the ideas she tries to express. If people around the child use language correctly, she will learn to do so.

Sing and rhyme.

  • Look for song lyrics and poems with lots of repetition. These can help your child learn sounds and language patterns.
  • Try writing the alphabet on a piece of paper so your child can follow along as you sing the Alphabet Song together.

Look for messages around you.

  • Help your child identify the letters, words, numerals, or symbols you see. Children quickly learn to recognize road signs and logos of companies and sports teams.
  • When your child knows some letters, numerals, and symbols, try playing “I Spy.” Take turns finding print and symbols around you: “I spy the letter M as in m-m-macaroni. Can you find it, too?” “I spy the Chicago Bulls logo. Can you find it, too?”

Write it down.

  • “Brainstorm” lists with your child: books you want to read, foods you need to buy, things you see around you, or ways to solve a problem.
  • Let your child make up a story while you write down her words. She can draw pictures to go with it. Or, she can dictate a letter or text message to a relative or friend.

Bring a book.

  • Tuck two or three small children’s books into your purse, backpack, or diaper bag—or keep some favorites on your mobile device. (Note: Children prone to motion sickness should not look at books in a moving vehicle!)
  • Whenever you can, stop at the library when you run errands with your child.
September 2015


Other Tip Sheets in this series

Other IEL resources

Other resources

Printer-friendly version

About this Tip Sheet

Search for more Tip Sheets

Quick Search

Search for resources on the following topic(s):

or perform your own search.


The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.

The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.