My youngest child usually likes peaches. I say usually because she’s a toddler and so it’s her prerogative to change her preferences 174 times a minute.
The other day, her big sister and dad were sleeping, and I had the luxury of cooking breakfast with a quiet(er) house. I decided to switch things up a bit and pan-fry some peaches in butter to give the kids an extra-special treat. When the peaches were cooked to caramelized perfection, I shared them with my sweetly smiling toddler. She stared at them with a look of complete confusion and threw them off her high chair tray.
Plop. Onto the floor went those delicious peaches.
I happened to be emptying the dishwasher at the moment the peaches took a nosedive. I noticed a kids’ fork in my hand. My little one loves to use cutlery. I mean, anything her sister does she wants to do. Immediately. So, I offered a fork, and held my breath.
Fork in peach and peach in mouth. She gobbled up those sweet peaches.
It turns out that when presented with something new (cooked peaches), my little one benefitted from something familiar (a fork) to help her feel comfortable.
The same goes for introducing new words to the early talkers in our lives. Pairing new words and a new activity or person can be challenging for some kids. In many cases, kids will clam up.
Try these ideas for introducing new vocabulary to your little one:
1. New word + familiar toy or activity: You’ve always used the word “bubbles” when you’re playing with the bubble wand in the backyard. This time you introduce the word “pop.” The activity stays the same but a new word is introduced.
2. Familiar word + new toy or activity. You’ve been using the word “bubbles” when you play with the bubble wand in the backyard. This time you use the word “bubbles” when you add a little dish soap to the water table in the backyard. The word stays the same but a new activity associated with that word is introduced.
3. New word + familiar place: You regularly take a walk at the beach. Your child always looks intently at the ocean, watching the waves, and you label it “water.” This time you introduce the word “waves.” The place stays the same but a new word is introduced.
4. Familiar word + new place: You label the “waves” you watch on the ocean during your daily walks together. This time you label the “waves” you make in the pool or bath. The word stays the same but a new place associated with that word is introduced.
By keeping a familiar activity, item, place or word in the equation, you can better help your child retain, understand and use this new vocabulary.
And if all else fails, introduce a fork.
Rebecca Wong Kai Pun is a mom of two, and a registered Speech-Language Pathologist. She is the owner of Bloom Speech Language Therapy and loves to cheer parents on with easy-to-use ideas that support their child’s communication development. Follow her on Instagram and become empowered with information about your little one’s communication!