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: 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

Executive Functioning Linked to Dramatic Play

I recently had the privilege of working with some amazing teachers at Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK. We discussed the benefits of dramatic play for children and the critical role of children developing complex play within dramatic play experiences for the development of their executive functioning capabilities.EF

PreK and K teachers are first and foremost teachers of social and emotional skills, self-regulation, attention, engagement, persistence, thinking symbolically, and cognitive flexibility. If students do not first learn these skills, then the academics and life with always be a struggle.

Research links dramatic play activities with the support of the teacher to  move students to more complex play as one of the best strategies for developing social/emotional and executive functioning skills.

The teachers developed visual analogies to help us always remember the link. Here are pictures of their insightful analogies. Thanks, Union Teachers!

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