Learning at Home: Expanding Children’s Vocabulary through Play

A couple of posts in April discussed the importance of dramatic play (Learning at Home: Dramatic Play and Learning at Home: More Dramatic Play Ideas) and then last week, we expanded children’s play by watching, observing, noticing and adding additional props to encourage extended play and to expand the scenario.

Today, let’s talk about vocabulary. A child’s vocabulary by the end of Kindergarten and first grade is a significant predicator of his/her reading comprehension in later years. Hemphill and Tarvin in their research share with us that vocabulary development needs to become a central focus in our early grade classrooms along with letter identification, phonics and phonemic awareness to build strong skills and knowledge for later reading comprehension (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248940899_The_Importance_of_Early_Vocabulary_for_Literacy_Achievement_in_High-Poverty_Schools)

Dramatic play is the perfect vehicle for extending a child’s play through authentic, hands-on learning- which is the type of learning that is going to stick with a child.

Play is learning- play with your child to authentically weave in the development and use of new words. While playing with your child, think about how you can pair what they are doing plus the vocabulary in which the child is already familiar with additional words. For example, if your child tells you that she is cooking chicken; you can ask, “Are you frying or baking your chicken? I love including vegetables with my chicken. Should we steam or saute them?” Or if you can playing grocery store, you can ask your child if he/she wants to be the cashier/clerk/merchant or the shopper/purchaser/customer. Use the words interchangably and encourage your child to use multiple words. If we use the words consistently, then the child will start incorporating the words into the play and conversation.

It is also important to help your child transfer the vocabulary to other settings. If they are playing auto shop and you go to an actual auto shop for repairs or an oil change, incorporate the same vocabulary used during play to help your child make connections.

Here are some ideas for vocabulary with the additional prop suggestions from last week…

Deepening Children’s Play through Props and Vocabulary
ScenarioIdeas for additional props to add to expand the playIdeas for additional vocabulary to incorporate while engaging in the play with the child
Orthopedic Doctor
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Encourage the child to take on the role of the engineer who designs the equipment for rehabilitation (crutches, walker, sling, cast) Provide the child with stuff from a recycle bin (boxes, oatmeal containers, cardboard tubes, lids) and allow him/her to design OR encourage the child to take on the role of the physical therapist or occupational therapist and add in props such as icepacks, heat pads, exercise ball, weights, step stoolPhysical therapy, rehabilitation, exercise, prevention, sling, cast, occupational therapist, heat, icepack, client, patient
Auto Shop
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Encourage the child to begin to take calls from drivers that are stranded on the road- that cannot get into the shop for repairs and add props such as a big box to make a tow truck, empty, clean gas can, play tools, appointment sheet for phone numbers, play cell phoneRepair, roadside assistance, stranded, frantic, emergency, fuel delivery, insurance, peace of mind, on call 24 hours a day, dispatch, guarantee, customer, rescue
Home Living
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If the child likes to engage in a lot of pretend cooking expand the utensils available by adding chopsticks, tongs, materials for cake decorating, wok, pie pan: then observe and notice- what direction is the child taking the play, if he/she starts decorating cakes, then you can begin weaving in play about decorating for weddings or birthdays, taking orders and selling the cakes, etc. OR Remove all plastic play food and add vase gems, dice, plastic or foam alphabet letters, building blocks, wood cookies (tree branches cut into round disks) and have fun observing the child’s creativity as the items become all kinds of different food. (remember to add items that are appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level so that they do not become a choking hazard.)Sauté, fry, bake, decorate, fondant, glaze, buttercream icing, stir-fry, steam, roast, temperature, boil, whip, cream, fold, presentation, blend, shake, place settings, utensils, measure
Expanding Children’s Vocabulary through Play journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Author: DHonegger

Debra S. Honegger has worked in multiple areas of education- both general education and special education- as teacher, consultant, administrator and instructional coach- with ages from birth through adult. However, no matter where she is or what her title, she holds a firm belief in meeting the needs of each individual child while coming together as a community of learners.

One thought

  1. On Wed, Jun 3, 2020 at 7:37 AM Journey into early childhood wrote:

    > DHonegger posted: ” A couple of posts in April discussed the importance of > dramatic play (Learning at Home: Dramatic Play and Learning at Home: More > Dramatic Play Ideas) and then last week, we expanded children’s play by > watching, observing, noticing and adding additional p” >

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