This weekend was delightful! We hung out with family. Dyed a bunch of eggs. Spilled a bunch of dye. Ate a bunch of candy. Saw a bunch of chickens. And now all we talk about is chickens.
Chickens aren’t new to us. We read A LOT of farm books. But until this week, we never talked about chickens. Ever wonder why this is? Nope, it isn’t because chickens are the coolest things since puppies. It’s because Hank’s little brain just learned that the word “chicken” isn’t just describing a toy or a picture. It is something that clucks and walks and makes him very nervous.
Often when I am working with kiddos or testing kiddos I ask them to name things. The items or pictures are things I bring into their home. In example, I might bring in a picture of a truck. The kid stares at it, maybe shrugs. Parents say “You know what that is! We play with one every night!” The parent brings over the child’s item and the kid says “truck!” So they know what a truck is? Not so much. They know that very specific toy and they think it’s name is “truck.”
How do kids start using new vocabulary words? Well that is easy. In books. Just kidding. They are exposed to vocabulary in books. Books are awesome but they do not get kids to start producing new words. Kids typically need to be exposed to a word in seven different ways before they completely understand a word.
Let’s use the word “chicken.” Hank has a little wind up chicken that lays bubble gum eggs. We got 1. He has a stuffed chicken that squeaks when you squeeze it. He has dozens of books that have chickens in them. He has a set of chickens and chicks in his farm set. We are up to 4. He has a pop up toy where a chicken pops up and sings a little song. We watched “Chicken Little” last week. He calls it “Chicken Noodle.” And then we saw chickens.
There were probably other chicken exposures, Paw Patrol, the zoo, chicken nuggets. (Don’t use chicken nuggets as an example. That was a joke.) This is how kids learn new words. When we look at kid’s vocabulary skills we see a trend. The kids with awesome vocabulary skills aren’t the ones who read a lot. They are the kids who read a lot and DO a lot. You want to increase your kiddo’s vocabulary? Take them to see the fire trucks, go to the zoo, visit the farm, walk through the produce aisle at the grocery store. This is how kids learn vocabulary!