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Helping your child learn language skills

​​Does your child have trouble remembering and using words? There are many skills they will need to learn to use new words. Here are some ways you can help your child learn language skills.

​​​​​Describing words

Describing words are words we use to help create pictures of things in our minds. They include words that describe size, shape, texture, colour, and function (what a thing does). Your child can use describing words to help understand and remember what they hear or read.

  • Activities for home: Ask your child to de​scribe their new pet or toy to a friend or relative on the telephone. Encourage your child to use a lot of describing words (e.g., “My new cat is so tiny he could fit in my shoe. He’s as soft as a pillow. He has a long striped tail and white whiskers.”).
  • Activities for home and school: Play guessing games like “I Spy” and “20 Questions.” These games teach children to think about details and use describing words.

​​​​​Putting words in categories

Putting words in categories helps children organize and store words. Imagine a grocery store that didn’t sort food into categories. You would have a very hard time finding the items you want to buy.

When things are organized, we can find what we want quickly and easily. In the same way, a child who’s good at putting things in categories can quickly and easily find and use words.

  • Activities for home: Ask your child to help you put away groceries and sort the laundry or recycle bin. Talk about why things belong in certain places and not in others (e.g., dark and white clothes, frozen goods, canned items, vegetables and fruits, paper, plastic, cans, cardboard).
  • Activities for school: When you start a new unit or theme, look for ways to group facts and information into categories (e.g., use the Canada Food Guide to talk about different food categories).

​​​​​How words are connected

The different ways words are connected or related are called word associations. Like categories, word associations help people organize and store words. The more word associations a child makes, the better they will remember and use new words.

  • Activities for home: When you’re cooking with your child, ask them to think about items and ingredients that go together (e.g., hot dogs and mustard, cereal and milk). When you’re talking about the days of the week, associate each day with the activities and events that happen on that day (e.g., Tuesday is soccer, Thursday is swimming).
  • Activities for school: When you start a new unit, talk about words that are related to the topic or theme (e.g., for a unit on frogs, talk about flies, ponds, lily pads, etc.).

​​​​​How things are different or the same

Sorting things by how they are different or the same is another way we organize words.
  • Activities for home: Play the Sesame Street game, “One of these things is not like the others” with your child. Use common items from around the house (e.g., toys, fruit and vegetables, shoes and boots).
  • Activities for school: Ask children to group themselves by how they are the same (e.g., color of hair, type of shoes). Talk about what’s different between one group and another. Play games like “what doesn’t belong and why”.​

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