Learn Language Through Play

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Veronika is adding so many new words daily, so I’m constantly thinking about ways to build her vocabulary as we play. Here’s a round-up of a few ideas we enjoy!

One option is to set out toys that lend themselves easily to open-ended play. Blocks, for example, are obvious candidates to talk about color and shape. But the more ways you play with them, the more your child’s vocab will expand. First we built towers, using words like taller and shorter, or “building up” and “falling down”.

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“All the way to the top!” she says as we build, one of her first full sentences.

But then those same blocks become something else. “Let’s build a farm!” I said. Now we could talk about all the animals in the farm, or the word “fence”.

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Don’t be afraid using fancy synonyms, like “enclosure”!

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Now she was “inside” the farm, instead of “outside”.

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Another idea to encourage words is to keep toys just out of reach. Now she has to ask for something by name.

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“Hot tea!” she says, when she wants her tea set down. Don’t forget to encourage “please” and “thank you”. Veronika proudly asked for her little garden of felt veggies next, also ripe with opportunities for new words (carrot, radish, turnip).

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Although a bit advanced, I’m also looking for ways to build up her verbs, which tend to come a bit later than nouns. For this game, we colored in pictures of a few ocean animals first, which in and of itself added to her vocab (crab! dolphin!).

Ocean Animal Movement (1)

Then I talked to her about how each animal moves, whether clapping like a seal or sidling like a crab.

Ocean Animal Movement (2)

Older toddlers will probably really enjoy acting these out!

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Don’t be afraid to add “science” words, too. One of my all-time favorite games for this age is a toddler volcano, a simplified version of the baking soda and vinegar models for bigger kids. In this version, just use a mound of playdough as the volcano. Poke an indent into the center and fill with baking soda. Vinegar makes the magic happen.

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Veronika was soon parroting back words like “volcano” and “explosion” to me. “Lava” might not really mean anything to her now, but this is how it all begins.

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A final great trick to build vocab? Invest in a beginner Brain Quest deck.

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Although billed for ages 2 to 3, I love to read to the Veronika from the deck more like it’s a story. By the time she’s a little older, she’ll be answering the questions.

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