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

Learning at Home: Expanding Children’s Dramatic Play with Props

In the April 1 post, we discussed all of the amazing benefits of dramatic play. Dramatic play is SO critical to young children’s growth and development that I am going to recap one of the key benefits here:

Dramatic Play

There is documented research that demonstrates the high level of cognitive, social, and emotional benefits from children’s engagement in dramatic play.

Our goal is to help our children deepen their play experiences to engage in more complex play:

  • Plans elaborate themes
  • Play more than one role in the play scenario
  • Uses props symbolically (a block becomes a telephone, a pool noodle becomes a fire hose, a tree branch cut into 1/2 inch rounds become pancakes or cookie)
  • The play scenario takes play over multiple days
  • Incorporates the vocabulary of the scenario and incorporates ideas from books that have been read to him/her

When your child begins a play scenario and plays it over a couple of days (cooking in the kitchen, baking, grocery store, restaurant, vet, doctor, firefighter, traveling to space, taking care of babies, auto shop, hairdresser, school), begin to deepen the experience for him/her with additional props to help him/her delve into more complex play. Provide suggestions as you become a partner in the play but do not take over- let your child guide and lead you through the scenario.

Examples:

Deepening Children’s Play by Adding Props
Journeyintoearlychildhood.com
ScenarioIdeas for additional props to add to expand the play
Orthopedic Doctor
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dr-play-journeyintoearlychildhood.com_.png
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 stool
Auto Shop
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20181106_135231.jpg
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 phone
Home Living
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2013-03-26-10.01.27.jpg
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.)
journeyintoearlychildhood.com Expanding Children’s Play with Additional Props

Learning at Home: More Dramatic Play Ideas

Why is play important to your child?

Play is a vital part of your child’s development. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.  For young children, play and learning are one and the same, they cannot be differentiated.

Through play, important brain development is established. Play is not a break from or a reward for learning- Play is Learning!

Dramatic Play

There is documented research that demonstrates

the high level of cognitive, social, and emotional benefits

from children’s engagement in dramatic play.

Children learn through imaginative play- more skills 

(see post on April 1st for the first list)…

Social/Emotional Skills:dramatic play learning at home journeyintoearlychildhood

  • Negotiating
  • Compromising
  • Self-control
  • Managing feelings

Critical Thinking Skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Predicting

 Academic Skills:

  • Storytelling
  • Increasing vocabulary

 

 

MORE Dramatic Play Ideas for Home that

Include VERY Little Set-Up or Supplies…

(see post on April 1st for more ideas)

  • Airplane or Train:
    • Supply Ideas:
      • Put 5 chairs together (pairs side by side and one in the front).
      • Paper, crayons, markers
    • Suggestions:
      • Help your child design tickets and travel brochures.
      • Have your child take on the role of pilot, flight attendant or passenger.
        • Where are you going?
        • What will you see?
        • Are you flying to Africa and can see the giraffes and elephants as you travel across the safari on a train?
        • Or maybe in Australia and can see the koalas and kangaroos?
        • Or to a big city?
        • What will you do when you arrive?
        • Where do the passengers store their luggage? How do they get their luggage when they arrive at their destination? How to they tag their luggage?

 

  • Hairdresser
    • Supply Ideas
      • Comb and brush
      • Barrettes and other hair accessories
      • Hair Blow dryer (not plugged in)
      • Straighter (not plugged in)
        • Suggestions
          • Allow your child to pretend to cut and style your hair.
          • Add in some additional literacy by remembering to call to make an appointment so your child can keep a schedule of appointments.
          • Don’t forget to have your child write a receipt and for you to pay.

 

  • Trudging through the Rain Forest, Woods or Jungle
    • Supplies Needed
      • Pillows
      • Blankets
      • Toilet paper cardboard tubes
    • Suggestions
      • Have your child help you set up obstacles that you might face in one of those environments such as pillows that you have to step on to cross the marsh, trees (stairs) you have to climb to see to the other side, a blanket across a chair and couch or a table that becomes low hanging branches that you have crawl under.
      • What animals do you see? Do you need binoculars to see the animals? (make some from two toilet paper cardboard tubes taped together)
      • What supplies might you need?
    • Carry a picnic with you and stop at the “clearing” (kitchen floor) to eat your lunch

 

  • Movie Theatre (Do you already have plans to watch a movie together? Turn your living room into a movie theatre.)
    • Supply Ideas:
      • Tickets, brochure, money, and concession signs and prices- allow your child to make. Only need paper and crayons or markers
    • Suggestions:
      • What roles will your child play? Ticket taker, concession stand clerk or is it a dine-in theatre and he/she needs to take your order and deliver the snacks?
      • Have your child name the theatre and make a sign, make tickets and make signs for the concession stand- how much will popcorn, pop, apple, chips, candy bar, etc. cost (whatever you are willing to serve at your theatre!) Cut apart some paper and write a number on it to use as money. Allow your child to “make change” for you.
      • Have your child make a movie brochure by drawing pictures of 3-4 movies and then collecting a vote from each family member. Show your child how to make tally marks to show each person’s vote.
      • Office
        • Supply Ideas
          • Keyboard
          • Clipboard
          • Phone (not plugged in)
          • Paper
          • Pens/pencils
          • Phone book
          • Notepad

Open-Ended Questions to Expand Children’s Play in a Dramatic Play Center:

  • What do you need to…                             * How is it different than…
  • How is it the same as…                             * What else can you do with…
  • What would happen now/ next if…       * What is your plan…
  • How would you describe…                      * How many different ways…
  • I notice…. Tell me more….                       * How does someone know…

Home Learning – Dramatic Play Suggestions: PRINTABLE VERSION fREE DOWNLOAD

Learning at Home: DRAMATIC PLAY

Why is play important to your childdramatic play journeyintoearlychildhood.com learning at home

Play is a vital part of your child’s development. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.  For young children, play and learning are one and the same, they cannot be differentiated.

Through play, important brain development is established. Play is not a break from or a reward for learning- Play is Learning!

What is your child learning by playing?

Through child-directed, free-choice play,

  • … children solve problems and pursue ideas
  • … healthy connections are made in the brain
  • … there is an increase in academic skills as noted in multiple research studies
  • … children are learning how to learn- how to persist and persevere through challenges.
  • … creative and critical thinking are developed
  • … social skills such as collaboration, turn-taking, and conflict resolution are developed
  • … emotional skills such as empathy and self-control increase significantly
  • … children engage in science, engineering, and math skills including hypothesizing, experimenting, testing and concluding
  • … vocabulary and language skills grow

Dramatic Play

There is documented research that demonstrates

the high level of cognitive, social, and emotional benefits

from children’s engagement in dramatic play.

Social/Emotional Skills:

  • Sharing
  • Cooperating
  • Building empathy as they take on the role of someone else
  • Solving social problems
  • Building of compromise
  • Persisting

Critical Thinking Skills:

  • Expressing their creativity
  • Flexibility in thinking
  • Connections of experiences and learning
  • Problem-solving
  • Predicting

 Academic Skills:

  • Storytelling
  • One to one correspondence
  • Thinking symbolically
  • Writing to convey meaning (treatment plan, check-up form, pet information)
  • Identification of letters/numbers/shapes

Communication Skills

  • Using an expressive vocabulary- often will use more complex vocabulary such as in this center, we may hear them saying words such as examination, stethoscope, illness, fractured, etc.
  • Engaging in turn-taking conversation

 

Dramatic Play Ideas for Home that

Include VERY Little Set-Up or Supplies…

  • Build a fort, cave, or shelter
    • Supply Ideas:
      • Two chairs and a blanket
      • Big box
    • Suggestions:
      • Let your child’s imagination soar as he/she decides what the shelter will become and what is happening outside of the shelter.
        • Is it a cave near an ocean? Can you find seashells near the cave, go swimming, lay on the beach, dig up calms and cook them over a fire?
        • Is it a bear cave? Read books such as Bear Snores On, Bear Can’t Sleep or Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and have your child design the cave and then react the story or make up their own using the same characters.
        • Are they on the island of lost boys with Peter Pan and it is a hideout from the pirates?
        • Are they stranded on an island?
        • Is it Rapunzel’s tower?
        • Is it Elsa’s ice fort?
      • Forts also allow your child space to be alone, to chill, to read, to play with puzzles, etc.

 

  • Window Washer
    • Supply Ideas
      • Spray bottle with water
      • Rag
      • Paper to schedule appointments
      • Phone (not plugged in)
    • Suggestions
      • Call to make an appointment with the window washer, have your child keep a schedule of appointments.
      • Give him/her a spray bottle with water and a cloth and allow him/her to clean your windows.
      • Don’t forget to have your child write a receipt and for you to pay. Do you need change? How much change?
  • Basic Home Living and Grocery Store

Let your child’s imagination take off while taking on the role of mom, dad, brother, baby, dishwasher repair person, mail carrier, etc. in a basic home set up- add a grocery store for some extra fun and creativity

  • Supply ideas
    • Bowls, spoons, pots, plates, etc.
    • Empty big boxes to become the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer
    • Bottle caps, corks, shells or jar lids with letters of the alphabet written on them to become food- “Can you bake me cookies that spell your name?”
    • Old clothes, old iron or iron not plugged in
    • Paper to write grocery lists and recipes
    • Cookbook
  • Empty and clean up food containers (cereal boxes, egg carton, cracker box, oatmeal container)
  • Suggestions:
    • Add a grocery store by setting up empty and clean food containers (tin cans, boxes, water bottles)
    • Turn the home living area into a restaurant by adding some menus and paper for ordering. You can use take out menus but even better is to allow your child to make his/her own menu- drawing pictures is great! There is no need to force writing – if your child is developmentally ready to start adding in some words, they can even start with just the beginning letter.
  • School
    • Supply Ideas

      school journeyintoearlychildhood.com
      Learning through Play journeyintoearlychildhood.com

      Books

      • Stuffed animals
      • Paper, crayons, markers
      • Magazines
      • Scissors

 

 

Open-Ended Questions to Expand Children’s Play in a Dramatic Play Center:

  • What do you need to…                             * How is it different than…
  • How is it the same as…                             * What else can you do with…
  • What would happen now/ next if…       * What is your plan…
  • How would you describe…                      * How many different ways…
  • I notice…. Tell me more….                       * How does someone know…

 

Home Learning – Dramatic Play Suggestions: PRINTABLE VERSION FREE DOWNLOAD

Learning at Home: Hands-Ons Learning Letters of the Alphabet part II

sorting names learning at home journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Young children learn best through hands-on activities (not from worksheets.) Parents can continue to engage with their children practicing the letters of the alphabet using developmentally appropriate strategies.

Children love their names. Learning will stick with children when we can connect it to something in which they have an emotional connection.

Here is a document to send home with ideas of how to learn the letters of the alphabet by sorting the letters in the child’s name…

Add in some practicing of fine motor skills by providing the child a pair of tweezers to pick up the letters.

FREE DOWNLOAD

Sorting Names Home Learning Activity

Home Learning Sorting Names
Sorting Names Journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Document for sorting names with sorting mats and headings for teachers and/or families that have access to a printer:

Sorting Names

Learning at Home: Hands-On Learning of Letters of Alphabet

learning at home sorting letters journeyintoearlychildhood.com

During this most unprecedented and challenging time in history, we all want our children to continue to learn and families want information on how to support their children.

However, I am dismayed by the number of worksheets that are being shared and ideas that involve lots of needed items such as pompons, playdough, rainbow mats, different colored Solo cups, etc. Don’t get me wrong- the ideas are very cute but they are also unrealistic for many of our families. Our families cannot travel to purchase these items- they should not be in stores and many cannot afford them or afford even the gas.

So here is an idea to share with parents for learning letters through sorting that uses only letters cut from cardboard food boxes or magazines. I have revised this from a document of ideas that I shared with teachers- I removed the colored background, etc. so that it is easier for you to print for parents if that is needed. It can be printed and sent along in food bags to families.

Please feel free to share:  FREE DOWNLOAD

Sorting Letters of the Alphabet to send home to families

Sorting Letters - Home Learning

Here is the original that includes lots of sorting mats for teachers

sorting letters of the alphabet

Building Friendships through Interactive Read Aloud with Purposeful Talk

                          friendship books with compelling questions journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Aristotle once stated, “who would choose to live, even if possessed with all other things, without friends.”

Many of our students struggle with the basic components of building friendships such as asking to join in play, suggesting play “Let’s…”, sharing, taking turns, changing perspectives, cooperating, and using respectful language.

We, therefore, must directly teach friendship skills through intentional, deliberate discussions and opportunities throughout the day. These opportunities can be embedded into the activities and work that is already occurring in the classroom setting.

Intentionally Choosing Literature to Discuss Friendships during Interactive Read Aloud with Purposeful Talk:

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfisterrainbow fish

Compelling Questions to Explore:

  • Do we always need to share to have friends?
  • Why does sharing help us have friends?
  • What are ways that we can share in the classroom? How does it make our friends feel when we share? How does it feel when we don’t share? (have students show the feelings on their bodies and discuss how our bodies feel physically when we are happy and when we are upset)

Set up intentional opportunities for students to share such as limited supplies in small group activities, math and literature centers and free choice play centers.

our treeOur Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel

Compelling Questions to Explore:

  • What are the qualities of a good friend?
  • What qualities of a good friend do you think we should demonstrate in our classroom? How can we use those qualities?

 

sandwich swapThe Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah

Compelling Question to Explore:

  • Should we have just one friend or lots of friends?

 

 

 

Reread the book and explore one or more of these compelling questions…

  • Should we always tell the truth?
  • Should we take sides when friends are arguing or stay neutral?
  • Should we have friends that like different things than we do?

two of a kindRead Two of a Kind by Jacqui Robbins

Explore the same compelling questions as The Sandwich Swap through the experiences in this book. Compare and contrast.

 

 

note: book titles are linked to Amazon.com

 

NO Worksheets in Early Learning: Test Yourself

NO Worksheets in Early Learning

WHY?

Review the past four blog posts on why we do not use worksheets in Pre-K through 3rd grade and then test yourself.

Which pictures depict activities that are developmentally appropriate?

Which pictures are worksheets that need to be banned from early learning?

journeyintoearlychildhood.com
Test Yourself- Is it a worksheet? Ban the worksheets from Early Learning and use Developmentally Appropriate Hands-on Learning Activities

no worksheets answers

No Worksheets in Early Childhood Part II

NO Worksheets in Early Learning:

WHY?

Reason Number Three: Worksheets shut down thinking and only require passive thinking.

Worksheets are stressful since they usually have a right or wrong answer. When children are just starting to learn how to navigate school, how to learn and how to become confident learners, they will gain more from open-ended, hands-on activities that promote risk-taking and persistence. A worksheet shuts down thinking and promotes a mind-set that learning is all about guessing.

no worksheet in EC part 2NOTE: Response sheets where students are illustrating or writing an idea based on a response to a prompt from a piece of literature, such as draw the setting or draw your favorite part of the story OR a documentation sheet, data collection sheet or “lab report” where information from science observations or data is begin recorded are NOT considered worksheets. Worksheets typically have one correct answer such as “circle all of pictures that start with the letter H” or “underline the words that rhyme with car.”

 

No Worksheets in Early Childhood Part I

NO Worksheets in Early Learning (Grades Pre-K through 3rd)

WHY?

Reason Number One: Children learn best through hands-on experiences.

NAEYC shares with us that children learn best through hands-on experiences. In order for learning to stick with them, they need to feel it, touch it, manipulate it, and experience it. Worksheets are a passive activity that does not activate the learning center in young children’s brains.

Reason Number Two: Children need real objects to develop symbolic thinking.

no worksheets part 1Based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, most young children, including Kindergarten and many first grade children, are in the preoperational stage of cognitive development. Letters and numerals abstract symbols that hold very little meaning. Children require play-based activities to begin to understand symbolic thinking. A play-based curriculum offers children opportunities throughout the day to develop the ability to think abstractly by experiencing real objects using their senses (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993).