An inspirational site for the new year asked us to choose a word for 2012. That was easy for me…learning!
But better than 1 word is many. Would you believe more than 40 million many? That’s how many words a child has heard in the early years before going to school! More than 40 million words, isn’t that astounding? As the brain hears these all these words, it makes vast connections to figure out the order that words go in, what they mean, how they change when used with other words, the rules of the game and more. Words are really important for language development and kindergarten readiness. What are some of the ways we can include words and learning with kids?
- Share books, lots and lots of books. Have Grandma Skype and she can read some.
- Tell stories. We can remember a few that we heard like The 3 Little Pigs, Puss in Boots, and other traditional ones, but make up stories too with your little ones. “Once upon a time, the bus grew wings and …
- Recite nursery rhymes, and change the words sometimes.
- Sing, sing, sing. Make up your own songs to easy tunes. Listen to songs, too.
- Talk with kids anytime. When it’s time to get dressed, talk to the socks. Making the bed needs some conversation, too: “Okay, pillow, you get to lie here nice and quiet and wait for bedtime. No hiding under the bed just under the covers.” Use voices for the fork and spoon at the table. Tell the shoes that they need to stay out of the mud unless they are boots.
- Let kids hear grown-ups talking to each other. How else will they learn b i g words?
When it comes to readiness for kindergarten, language is significant. If words were pennies, think of them as deposits in your child’s brain bank account. And it can hold lots. Are you enriching your child’s word account?
Some days have long lists of things to do and readiness for kindergarten may be lower on the priorities. But it is possible to combine readiness fun with other things. Remember yesterday’s song “Where is Pumpkin?” using the “Where is Thumbkin?” tune? Today for some kindergarten readiness fun let your little one hide the pumpkin anywhere in the room where you need to do something on your list. Then, you can “pretend” to find it and your child can hide it again. Or kids even like to find things that they have hidden themselves.
When children go to kindergarten, they will have to cope with instructions such as put their sweater in their cubby or put their boots on the shelf. They may have to locate something that is beside, under, above, below, etc. These words can be confusing so to understand kids need lots of experiences. Having heard these words and used them will stimulate their language development and help kids later at school. Hiding the pumpkin gives you and your child lots to talk about and is a fun way to practice. Where is the pumpkin? It’s under the chair, or between the cushions, or on top of the toybox, or in the bathtub. Silly pumpkin, why are you in the bathtub? It’s not bathtime…etc, etc.
A study released this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states “There is some scientific evidence that shows that the less talk time a child has, the poorer the language development is.” So go ahead, ramble on about the pumpkin while you fold the laundry, do the dishes or tidy the bathroom. While your child is hiding the pumpkin under the bed, take advantage of the help to retrieve some of the things that are under it. Oh, oh…where is the pumpkin?
Recently, I read the most amazing article. It was called The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Gap. The authors, Hart and Risley, compared the total number of words that children hear at home before they come to school. Of course, their study was based on a small amount of time and the numbers multiplied by hours, days and years but still the numbers are staggering. Children in professional families have had the stimulation of over 45 million words from birth to age 4 as compared to 26 million for those in working class families and only 13 million words for those children in families in the lower economic groups. A gap of 30 million words. A child’s brain responds to stimulation so the difference of 30 million words is astronomic.
The letter l, today, is for language. Share lots of words and talk with your little one because it all adds up. Talk about where you are going, what you are doing, seeing, hearing, etc. Ask some what ifs, what if it was so hot the bus melted like chocolate, what if buildings went down instead of up, what if all the colors could talk what would they say. Wrap your day with language. It’s a treasure of immense worth for your child.