Looking for ways to get your little one’s vocabulary off on the right track? These activities give toddlers and preschoolers a start on developing good speaking, reading, and writing skills.
Developing strong reading and writing skills is an important step in preparing your child to begin school. You can play these fun vocabulary-building games with your toddler and preschooler while laying the foundation of language skills your child will need to do well in kindergarten and beyond.
Before You Get Started
Remember, play is your child’s work, and you are your child’s first teacher. Be patient and make learning enjoyable. Use your time playing together not only to teach but to create good memories between you. A happy child learns better.
Spend an average of 15 to 20 minutes on each game. When your child loses interest, it’s time to stop playing. Clean up and put things away together as you talk about the activity, what he liked, what he needed help with, and so on.
Let the Games Begin!
1. Gather a variety of objects from around the house, such as a pencil, pillow, pans, stuffed animal, socks, crackers, and a blanket. Describe the objects in as many ways as you can: smooth, rough, soft, flexible, hard, square, red. Ask your child to pick the items that are fuzzy, rigid, and so on. Give definitions of the words she doesn’t know as you go. Don’t worry if some of the words are above her comprehension right now; the goal here is to expand her vocabulary by exposing her to new words.
2. Introduce your child to keeping a journal. Staple several sheets of paper together onto a piece of cardboard or a manila folder. Each day, ask your child to draw a picture of what happened that day or to use her imagination to create a story. After the picture is drawn, ask her to describe a little bit about the picture then print some of her words on the page.
3. Go to the library together and look through the plethora of magazines being published today for toddlers. Take a few of each home to see which he likes best.
Read through them together and do some of the suggested activities. When he has decided on a favorite, fill out the subscription card together and take it to be mailed. Explain to your child that the magazine will take a few weeks to start arriving, but that once it does, a new one will come every month. This is an excellent introduction into the joys of reading, and your toddler will look forward to receiving mail each month.
4. Label everything in your kitchen by writing the words on poster board, cutting them out, and then taping them on the appropriate place: cupboards, stove, sink, glasses, refrigerator, counter, faucet, drawer.
5. Talk about the use of each of these objects as you teach her each word. Ask her to point to the sink, to the place where food is kept, to the place where ice is made. After a week or so, do the same in the bathroom, bedroom, etc.
6. Make an “I Am Special Book” for your child. Fold regular size white paper in half lengthwise and staple-bind it in the center. Write the title on the cover. Inside, print a different theme on each page that your child will fill-in with you. Examples are:
“My favorite color is _____________. Things in my house that are this color are __________________.” Other themes can include naming toys, naming favorite games, family members, things in the neighborhood, or the child’s hair color, eyes, height, and weight.
7. Make everyday car trips vocabulary building opportunities with the old game, “I Spy.” Start pointing out some of the things you see as you go, “I spy a big blue truck, I spy a pine tree,” and sooner or later, your little one with do the same.
8. No matter what, remember to keep talking to your child. Describe everything you are doing: “I am washing the clothes because they got dirty when we played in the park today. I put special soap called detergent into the washing machine.”
You’ll be amazed how quickly they pick things up!