One of the enjoyable parts of my job is that I occasionally get to go and see one of my little clients in their preschool setting and work with them there, observing how their language impacts their relationship with peers as well as play and academics.

Today I had the privilege of visiting Eva at her preschool. She immediately introduced me as Sherry to all of her fellow pretenders in “The Doctor’s Office.” Several medical coats were available to put on as well as implements to deliver shots, finger pricks, heart checks and blood pressure screenings. At one point I was covered with band aids as a child banged my knee with his hammer to perform his professional duties. The cutest part was that the “doctors” each had a kid-sized clipboard and after they executed their medical checks they “wrote down” what procedures they had used. What a great way to integrate writing and inventive spelling into fun pretend play! They added¬† “finger prick,” “temperature” and “throw up” to their list after each duty or event. Watching them sound out the words and transcribe their actions was captivating.

You can set up this combination of creative play and letter learning at home. Brainstorm with your child possible play settings such as a pirate ship, grocery store, train station or beauty parlor. Most businesses involve money that can be printed with words, or tickets to get on the train. Help your child make these ahead or write them out as needed. Children learn best in their natural environment of play–rather than flashcards–because words have meaning in context. They learn that a word stands for something and is useful in their play scheme. Always have plenty of paper and pencils around their pretend play area and see how your children integrate the written word into their play naturally.