As a mom of boys, there are Hot Wheel cars and monster trucks in every crevice of our house. Xander’s favorite place to line his cars up are on the windowsill. Noah’s favorite place to play with his cars is on the hardwood floors. My least favorite place to find both of their cars are under my precious feet. Ouch! As painful as those little cars can be, they are still one of my favorite language activities for young children.
Last week we learned about different ways to grow your child’s language through block play. Now it’s time to get on the floor and discover all the language skills that a child develops while playing with cars and trucks. Remember to include both auditory comprehension (the ability to understand and comprehend a message that is heard, read or interpreted from body language) and expressive language (the ability to create a message that others will understand), when working on language activities with your child.
Language Activities During Early Communicators Stage (around 7 to 12 months)
What they are saying: Children this age communicate using babbling and crying in relationship to the world around them.
What their hands are doing: Banging, shaking, tasting, throwing, pushing (larger cars), and pushing smaller cars (by 12 months).
Auditory Comprehension: Focus your language around their play, by narrating their actions. Avoid asking questions.
* Your child is beginning to show understanding of communication turn taking rules. When he/she makes a gesture or sound to get your attention, it’s important to acknowledge you heard them. This models good turn taking skills, which some adults still haven’t figured out.
* Teach turn taking by showing your child my turn/your turn with pushing a car back and forth. Children around 12 months of age should be able to do at least 1 turn back and forth.
* Words to focus on to teach direction following: more, push, go, beep.
Expressive Language: Encourage your child to imitate the words he/she may know.
Words to use: “uh oh”, “boom”, “wow”, “ohh”, “oh no”, “beep”, “vroom”, “honk”
Get down on the floor and face to face with your child so he/she can see your lips move.
* As your child moves closer to the “first words” stage, he/she will begin to imitate more of these words. Encourage any sort of attempt with lots of praise.
* As your baby turns into a full fledged toddler, he or she begins to interact more with toys. Banging, mouthing, and throwing is still the main source of entertainment, but every once in a while they may enjoy imitating play activities. Imitation is an important stepping stone to first words, so be sure to encourage any attempt your child makes to imitate you.
* As your child begins to use more single words, begin to increase the length of your phrases (to no more than 2 word phrases).
Language Activities During New Talkers Stage (around 12 months to 2 years)
What they are saying: Uses single words or pictures.
What their hands are doing : As your child develops a firm hand grip, they will begin to hold an object in each hand simultaneously, leading to more advanced play skills. They enjoy lining cars up, racing two at a time and building car tracks out of other toys or household items.
Auditory Comprehension: While you and your child are playing with cars and trucks, talk about different propositions and adjectives such as “I’m putting my truck on top of the box.” or “Look at how fast your car goes!”.
*You can also work on simple directions such as “Give me your car” or “Put your truck in the garage.”.
* Children learn best from repetition and simple language
Words to use: big/little, up/down, fast/slow, smooth/bumpy, stop/go, parts of a car (wheels, door, window, steering wheel), drive, zoom, race, help, watch, your turn/my turn
* Choose single words that your child is learning and use them throughout the play time. Don’t forget to model correct pronunciation and grammar. If your child mispronounces a word don’t correct them, just repeat it the correct way.
* Repetition is the key!
* Target new vocabulary by describing your actions, such as “Mommy racing her car.” “Clean up time.” “Put the cars in box.” “Car goes fast.”
* As your child begins to use more single words, begin to increase the length of your phrases (to no more than 3 word phrases).
Language Activities During Combining Words Stage (around ages 2-4)
What they are saying : Around age two (sometimes later) a language explosion will occur and your child will learn new words daily. By age four your child will use simple sentences.
What their hands are doing: Your child’s fine motor skills are becoming refined. During these years, children learn to manipulate small toy pieces such as Legos and cars with small moving parts.
Auditory Comprehension: At this language stage, introduce simple questions, such as “Which car is faster?” or “Can you help me?.
* Ask your child to identify concepts fast/slow, bigger/smaller, shapes, colors.
* Continue with direction following, gradually increasing to two-step directions. Kids enjoy making a game out of following directions, such as “Do what mommy/daddy does… race your car and then clap your hands.”
Expressive Language:Target two- three word combinations adding to the complexity based on your child’s language.
* Focus on different attributes of the cars (colors, size, shape), encouraging your child to use full sentences, such as “I have a green car.” After you child describes his car repeat the sentence with more information included, such as “I have a green car with big wheels.”.
Words to focus on: Sentences! “That’s mine.” “My car goes fast.” Wow, look at how big the wheels are on this car.”
The next time your child sits down to play with cars turn it into language activities, without him or her even knowing it. One of the best parts about language development at this age is that you can sneak in the good stuff right in the midst of their play.
What are your child’s favorite toys or activities? I would love to feature them in the following weeks to help you develop ways to grow language through play. Please feel free to comment, send me an e-mail or contact me on Twitter. Next Monday for Words in the Sand I will be sharing with you ways to grow your child’s language with Thomas the Train activities, including my favorite IPad application.