It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. Too soon we will be back into sweaters and hearing the school bells ringing. I’ve had an amazing time with my crew this summer, exploring the city and beyond to see what’s new to learn and talk about. I find it so easy to encourage language development with my kids in the summer since all you really need to do is get outside!
Remember, the two most valuable tools needed for learning language are interest and experience. If a child isn’t interested you won’t have their attention to show them anything new, or the motivation to keep them engaged. Children also learn best through hands on experience. In fact most language learning for toddlers and preschoolers are often tied to specific events. For example, a child who has seen a cow at the farm, heard it moo and maybe even felt its fur, will likely have a more developed meaning for the word ‘cow’ compared to looking at a toy cow or seeing it in pictures. This experience is also more likely to encourage child-initiated communication.
Since I am feeling nostalgic, I thought in this post I would share some of my favourite places to go in the summer that are great for a wide age range, the majority of kids are interested in going and inspire communication and natural language learning. I also outline a few language learning ideas at each place to get you started!
Even city dwellers usually don’t have to travel too far to find a farm to visit. Children love seeing their favourite animals up close and personal and lots of farms give you the chance to pick your own fruit and vegetables; something little hands REALLY love! The farm is also great for learning language concepts, since concepts are typically learnt best through hands on experience. From loud and quiet ducks to clean and dirty cows there are so many unique concepts to experience at the farm. All you have to do is notice and talk about it with your kiddo! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
– old/new – long/short – smooth/rough
– big/small – thin/fat – soft/hard
– heavy/light – tight/loose – wide/narrow
Summer and water just go hand in hand. Even the smallest of babies can enjoy time at the beach with their families. Usually this environment inspires communication from even the most reserved child, since there are many fun things to do for all ages. That’s why the beach is a great place to practice expressive language and communication skills. Here are some things to do to help get the conversation started with your child and keep it going:
1. Get face-to-face, join in and play with whatever your child is interested in
2. Wait for your child to use gestures, sounds or words to communicate about their interests
3. Use comments related to the child’s interests and take equal turns speaking to keep the conversation going longer
4. Use the power of pretend play to create new things to do and talk about
I will admit that my husband and I are not huge campers. One or two nights are about all we do, even though the kids could stay forever! Camping is also a great time to help kids practice receptive language by following directions. There is always something to get done when camping. Whether it is putting up the tent, gathering firewood or finding sticks to roast marshmallows there are lots of projects that require kids to listen and understand so they can participate. Since most kids love to help out while camping it is a perfect time. Here are some direction ideas to start you off:
1. 1 year old – One-step direction, such as “Can you get mommy a stick?” or “Put the ball in the tent”.
2. 2 year old – Two-step directions, such as “Pick up the backpack and give it to your father” or “Get your pillow and go into the tent”.
3. 3 years old and older – Three-step directions, such as “Open your bag, get your bathing suit and put it on” or “Go into the cooler, find the ketchup and put it on the table”.
Hiking or Nature Walks
Sometimes I think in this fast paced world we can get so caught up in talking we forget the value in listening. A nature walk or hike is one of the best places to keep the talking to a minimum and use the ears. What does a babbling brook sound like? What do rustling trees sound like? What does a bird’s song sound like? Draw children’s attention to the wonders of the world around them and help them connect the sounds they hear to the words for a more robust understanding of their meanings.
Children who have larger vocabularies are usually stronger readers and have better academic skills. As children get older it can be hard to remember that even though they talk a lot, vocabulary is something that grows, even into adulthood, and children should learn new words regularly. The zoo is a perfect place to do this. Whether it is a new animal name, words about habitats or an animal’s country of origin, the zoo is never short on new vocabulary words for kids of all ages. On your next visit try and pick one or two new words to learn while you are there to expand your child’s vocabulary.
I wish everyone out there a happy end of summer with their families!