On our most recent family trip I was reminded of something magic – new experiences lead to a burst in new words.
The evidence was right before my eyes (or rather ears) as Chloe (my 2 ½ year old) repeated and later easily recalled so many new words including lichen, Dugong, stabiliser bars and even fluorescent!
And why do new words come more easily during new experiences? Well it has to do with a few key strategies that underpin language learning.
Engagement – children are engaged by novelty and new experiences offer them this. This is totally in line with one of my main mantras “when children are having fun, they are engaged and when they are engaged they are learning”.
1:1 time – often when our child is experiencing something new we are right there with them experiencing it too. In fact this is one of the joys of being a parent, getting to explore the world all over again through the eyes of your little one.
Focused stimulation – this is basically us as the parent providing the new word many times to describe what our child is experiencing.
Mapping new words – And when we name what is happening as our child has an experience (looks, feels, hears, smells) then this help our child create a strong map or ‘neural connection’ between the word and the experience.
And even though my little one may not have a complete understanding of the new words she has learned, other experiences will help her to consolidate their meaning so that her understanding grows over time.
Practical ideas to help your child learn new words
Okay, so it’s not possible to go on a holiday every weekend, but never fear, there are loads of other mini-adventures you can go on (even at home) to help your little one learn new words. Why don’t you try one of these today?
Grab a magnifying glass and crawl around your backyard looking for bugs or examining leaves
Explore a new section of the zoo
Go on a nature walk and build a cubby out of fallen branches
Make a potion or try an experiment with items in the pantry and utensils in the kitchen drawer
Borrow a new book from the library
Choose some new things to take in the bath to see if they sink or float
Go to the airport and watch planes take off
Take a walk down the aisle at Bunnings and talk about what you can see
Try out a new playground or park
Go to the op-shop and see if you can find some new items for the sandpit or dress-up box
Find your local mulberry tree and have a feast
Collect treasure from your local beach after a storm