As we enter the busy holiday season with shopping, family gatherings and good food, we often overlook the wonderful opportunities for providing rich language experiences for young children.
The homes are lit with lights, and such words as ‘sparkle’, ‘glowing’ and ‘magical’ can add to a young child’s vocabulary, while he or she is experiencing the joys of the season. With the repetition of these words, as we pass houses, look at trees, or just look at the starts in the sky, we’re providing an easy language rich opportunity.
During family gatherings around meals, words such as ‘delicious’, ‘sticky’, ‘sweet’, ‘tasty’ can be more interesting than the typical comment about “good food”. For very young children who are just beginning to talk, simple verbs, such as ‘eat’, ‘drink’, and ‘all done’, can provide youngsters with the ability to ask for the food and drink that interest them. Instead of a meal filled mostly with adult conversation, involve the children and think about some fun and maybe silly games, with words, that you can play. Examples might be: “Which Is more delicious the ham or the turkey?” “What part of the meal do you like most?” This encourages both problem solving and new vocabulary for older children.
And then there are the presents. Young children love the wrapping, ribbons and boxes. If they don’t immediately show interest in the gift, but rather are focused on the packaging, follow their interest. It will be more fun for both of you and you will be surprised by the interactions you’ll share and the new words and concepts your children can learn. For really little ones, words like ‘open’, ‘close’, ‘on’, ‘off’, can be repeated many times, while unwrapping gifts. What a wonderful way to share the gifts and learn new words. You can also combine the words you used when looking at lights with the words you use while unwrapping gifts. Phrases like “open the sparkly one” will also help children follow simple commands and learn to understand what these words mean.
No matter how you think of providing language opportunities during the holidays, if you recognize that this special time of year can also be a special language learning time, your child will have fun and you will be helping his or her language grow.
Judith K. Ball, M.S., Reg. CASLPO