We’re Wild About Words: This Activity Builds Toddlers’ Language Skills

Photo by kate_sept2004 / iStock
Photo by kate_sept2004 / iStock

By Rachel Ward

“Mommy, Mommy, let’s have piz-ghetti!”

Hearing your two- or three-year-old start using new and bigger words, even if they do get a bit tongue-tied, can bring a huge smile to your face—and maybe surprise you, too. (“Where did they even hear the word gadget, anyway?”)

“Two- and three-year-olds are at the point where their brains are kicking the learning process into overdrive—they’re starting to pick up on the ins and outs of language, and they’re matching more and more names to objects and beginning to express them,” says Linda Nelson from KinderCare’s Education team.

But as they start to grasp communication through language, they’re also starting to see that there are other ways we can communicate and express ourselves—like through artistic expression.

That’s why this week, our Discovery Preschool kids are taking part in an activity that blends all these areas of development: making their own shopping lists. (So don’t be surprised if they come home ready to hit the grocery store with you!)

This Speech and Language Activity for Toddlers Builds More Than Just Vocab Skills

As kids draw pictures of the foods they’d put on their menu, our teachers keep the conversation going by talking about what they’re drawing, asking what foods they wouldn’t buy, and finding out which meals kids would make with the foods on their lists.

“By giving children the opportunity to think about what they like and what they would buy themselves, they’re beginning to think more independently—and by talking about it with a teacher or their friends, they’re building their communication skills,” explains Nelson.

Not to mention, the whole exercise is also a great way to get tots thinking about healthy and unhealthy foods—another conversation our teachers gently walk through, all without making kids feel bad about their food menu choices.

We’re helping kids develop their communication skills and learn new vocabulary each and every day at KinderCare, and there’s some really easy ways you can do the same at home! Try out our tips below.

Sing, Read, and Chat: 4 Fun Ways to Build Your Toddler’s Vocab at Home

1. Turn on some tunes and rock out

Does your future rockstar love Moana or have a thing for Beyonce’s music? Find some of their favorite songs on Youtube, turn up the volume, and sing it loud and proud together! By singing, kids are reinforcing words they already know and hearing words that they might not have encountered before (and working on pitch, rhythm, and tempo as an added bonus).

2. Dive into the amazing world of books

Storytime is an awesome way to learn new words! Go beyond just reading aloud and ask open-ended questions about the story and illustrations to have your child think critically and use their words. Where is this character now? What would you do if you were them? What’s that boy holding in his hand? If your child isn’t quite ready for that, go ahead and describe the scene for them!

Photo by AzmanL / iStock
Photo by AzmanL / iStock

3. Let them chat on the phone for a few minutes

Talking to your sister on the phone? Let her say hi to your child, and encourage her to ask some open-ended questions! Having opportunities to talk to others naturally gives kids practice at using words and discovering new ones they haven’t heard yet (and this encourages social skills, too).

4. Get out in the world and explore

Take a trip to the park, visit the zoo, go on a hike, or take in an art exhibit! Not only will your child love experiencing something new, but when you talk about it with them (“Look at that lion’s big mane!” “That picture has so many circles and squares” “Do you see that bird over there? That’s a woodpecker!”), their word bank is expanding, too.

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