As we’ve discussed before on this blog, play is absolutely essential for children’s early learning and mental development. Even things that you might not associate with physical activity, like vocabulary, are improved and expanded through play. Here are a few of the ways that common forms of play can help children add to their vocabulary:
- Hide and seek: Not only does this classic game help with spatial reasoning, as children have to figure out which places they can fit into without being seen, it also provides practice with counting and using location words like “in”, “under”, “between”, “behind”, etc.
- Building sand castles: When your little one is molding sand into interesting structures on the beach, it’s a good opportunity to use descriptive words for the texture of the sand, as well as introducing verbs that might be new to your child, like “pile”, “funnel” and “dig”.
- On the playground: As you might expect, the playground is a great location to use action words. Talking to children about what they’re doing as they run, jump and slide helps to cement the terms for these motions into their memory. What’s more, the playground is the prime location for unstructured interactions between children, which help them expand their vocabulary almost automatically, as their brains are primed for language learning at this age.
- Imaginative play: Perhaps the best type of play for developing vocabulary is the kind that includes a lot of imaginative scenarios and dialogue. Using books as the foundation for role-playing can also help increase children’s linguistic knowledge, since they have to put the words they find in the book to use in their own speech.v
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