Days out with your child can be a great way of introducing new vocabulary that they may not come across at home or in more familiar places. Making sure your day out is fun, exciting and memorable will also help to reinforce your child’s learning. Below are some suggestions on how to make the most of days out with your child:
Taking a day trip to the seaside can be great fun and offers both play and language learning opportunities. Being outdoors can improve children’s concentration skills and playing games such as building sandcastles, jumping over waves, burying legs in the sand are fun, stimulating for the senses and help to strengthen your bond with your child. Multi sensory experiences strengthen language learning and the seaside offers opportunities to talk about the different sounds you can hear and introduce new vocabulary. You could play the listening game I Hear With My Little Ear to see what noises and sounds you can identify. We also have a Seaside Listening Walk in our members area.
The City Farm or Zoo
We are so lucky to have such choice now with all of the animal attractions available for children. Most regions of the country will have a Safari Park or Zoo and Inner City Farms are popping up all the time, mostly just asking for a small donation as your entry fee. Animals can be inspiring and captivating for children and visiting a Farm or Zoo can bring to life the vocabulary they have been learning about through play or pictures in books. A real-life encounter also adds a multi sensory layer with the smells, sounds and touch of the animals (most Zoos and Farms have animal contact areas). Once you’re back home again talk about the animals you saw, the sounds they made, and reinforce the vocabulary. You can talk about size concepts (big vs little animals), colours and describing words (e.g. furry, fluffy, brown, spotty…), action words (e.g. eating, sleeping, running, chewing…) and number concepts (e.g. four legs, two legs, 5 cows…).
The Explore Centre
Explore centres are great for provoking children’s imagination and encouraging them to ask and think about those higher level questions such as ‘what if?’, ‘how?’ and ‘why?’. There are so many opportunities for children to interact with and learn about their world and they open up a world of sounds, concepts and words that you may not ordinarily encounter in your family routine. These centres inspire curiosity which is key for education, learning and new discoveries and they encourage children to keep asking questions about their world. Carry on the learning and curiosity when you get home, by encouraging your child to ask those questions and to be curious about how things work, why things are the way they are etc. You can help this by asking things like “I wonder where that lives?” or “I wonder what will happen if…?” The ‘I wonder’ question is great for leading children into their curiosity and imagination.
Most families already take their children to a local park or playground for a few hours, why not take a picnic and spend the whole day there. There are so many positive benefits to outside play and parks are great places to model new vocabulary, particularly action words, which can be reinforced with the movement of physical play. Children love you to be their play partner and this strengthens their bond and attachment with you so try joining in with the excitement as you push them on the swings, make a tunnel for them with your legs as they come down the slide or create a ready, steady go! game with the roundabout. The park also offers opportunities for peer interactions so children can start to learn to share, wait and take turns. A lot of parks now a days have creative play equipment which helps to encourage children’s imagination and development. Most parks will have role play equipment (e.g. pirate ships, towers and castles), equipment that supports physical development and motor skills (balancing bars and climbing frames) and sensory play equipment (e.g. talking pipes and play sound boards). Most of this equipment is designed to be safe for children to explore on their own but children much prefer to have you involved and you can add the language to their play to support their communication development.
Believe it or not your local Supermarket, Farmers Market or Corner Shop is a prime opportunity for language learning. If your child is very young then exploring the textures and smells of foods and their packaging can be a sensory and language learning experience, simply tell them the words and comment on what they are doing (e.g. “Orange, that’s an orange!”, “Bumpy skin, orange”). When they are a little older you can get them involved. Give toddlers one or two items to find at a time (e.g. “Find me the oranges and apples”) and when they’re a little older you can give them a more to find. We have a Food Vocab Booster Plan in our members area which has more ideas on helping your child learn new vocabulary. You can use pictures or line drawings on a white board to give them things to look out for or play games such as I Spy (described below). Shopping really can be a fun experience with your child rather than a chore to tick off your list and rush through.
The Journey There
Don’t forget about the journey there….. there are so many ways you can make long journeys opportunities for learning instead of a bore and a chore. Here are some of our favourite games and tips for making journeys fun for everyone and learning opportunity for your child:
I’m sure we can all remember fun times playing this classic game when we were children. This game is so great as it can be played in the car, on the bus or even whilst walking to your day out. The game starts with one person saying “I spy with my little eye something beginning with….” and then everyone tries to guess their word. For younger children you can simplify the game to a simple a guessing game rather than choosing something that begins with the initial letter. For example, “I spy with my little eye….” and then people guess what the child can see. Clues can be given if you get stuck (e.g. ‘What colour is it?’ or ‘Is it big or small?’, ‘Is it an animal?’ etc).
I’m Going on a Holiday
This game is a memory game with the list of items items you’re taking on holiday getting longer and longer. The first person says “I’m going on a holiday and I’m taking……” They then name an item of choice (silly or sensible) and the next person has to remember their item and add another. As this list gets bigger the challenge is to remember all the items that came before, before adding your new one. For example, “I’m going on a holiday and I’m taking a sock….an envelope…a hairbrush… and a sun hat” If you get the list wrong or forget an item you are out of the game!
The Car Game
The aim of the game is for each person to pick a colour and see how many times they can spot cars that are their colour. The winner is the person to spot the most cars in their colour. For older children you can make this harder by getting different points for cars vs bus vs tractors etc.
The Odd One Out Game
This game is most suitable with older preschool children and they will need to understand categories. The adult/parent says three items (e.g. sock, shoe and potato) and your child has to guess which one is the odd one out. If your child is old enough they can have a go at saying the three items and you have a go at guessing. It can be fun to sometimes get the answer wrong and give them a chance to practice explaining why your item is not the odd one out.
Songs and Rhymes
Singing songs and rhymes together on your journey is a great way to pass the time. You don’t need a CD or radio to do this and you can have fun changing traditional nursery rhymes or making up your own.