Although sometimes I long for a few minutes of silence, the reality is that I love the fact that my three-year-old daughter, Vanessa, talks non-stop. Her vocabulary in Spanish is extensive and I know it has to do with the fact that I’ve talked to her since she was in my belly.
In fact, many studies show that the amount of conversations and the variety of words that children listen to have a direct influence on the pace at which they develop language skills. Children that are exposed to both more words and uncommon words in their conversations with adults tend to develop broader vocabularies.
So, how do you do this? Expose your children to a vast variety of experiences making sure you turn them into an opportunity for them to learn:
From cooking terms to the origin of a specif dish, the chances to teach your children tons of vocabulary abound in the kitchen. Just the other day, after Vanessa finished eating ice cream with her new-found-love, cajeta, she asked me to please wipe her hands with a wet towel because she hates being sticky. So I did and we went finger by finger saying their name in Spanish a couple of times for each hand.
Some children are more prone to have a conversation if they have something concrete to talk about, such as a toy or another material thing. Vanessa makes up all kinds of stories about her plush animals and she loves to tell me all about them. I encourage her to do so by asking probing questions and making relevant comments.
Oh, how I love to travel! I think there’s no better way to learn than this one. When traveling with children, it’s a good idea to learn about the place you’ll be going to before the actual trip. This will probably make them more eager to get there and will make them pay better attention to their surroundings once there. We recently took a road trip about six hours southwest of Denver to a spot famed for it’s healing hot springs. A few days before the trip, I showed Vanessa the route we were going to take on a big map I have hanging in my office and we talked about what we would find there. She was fascinated before we even got there and now, a few weeks later, she still talks about the trip.
As you probably know by now, children crave routines and I do too because they offer great opportunities for interaction. Every afternoon, after I pick up my daughter from preschool and we’re in the car ready to go home, I ask her about her day. We have great conversations and she’s come to expect them by now. Some times she has a funny story to tell me about what happened, other times she shares a song she learned in music class, and still others she has a question about something one of her teachers said. And, as we talk about all these things, her vocabulary continues to expand.
What are some of the experiences you like to turn into learning opportunities?