Welcome back to another week in paradise! This week, since so many of us are still spending the majority of our time at home sweet home, I wanted to continue with the theme of routines. And what better routine than the evening routine for building language? As we talked about last week, routines are great for using repetitive language, which in turn is great for little ones who are developing their language skills.
When it comes to learning language, repetition is key. Your child needs to hear a word anywhere from four to twelve times in meaningful situations before he adds that word to his vocabulary. Toddlers and children with special needs may need many more repetitions. For those of us who attempted to learn a foreign language during high school but failed miserably, I ask you, what did you learn after three years of high school Spanish? The alphabet, a few colors to spice things up and the numbers one to twenty-- or beyond if you were really a devoted student. I don’t want this post to focus on those years lost to learning the alphabet in another language, rather, I want you to remember the true principle of repetition.
And the second true principle which is variety. Variety was lacking hugely for most of us who attempted Spanish or Chinese or French. We learned a few basics, but what most of us needed was to hear a variety of words that were meaningful to us. And this goes for your child as well. If we can talk about toys, animals, smells and tastes around us that they can connect to in that moment, they’ll be so much more likely to learn. So use a lot of language to talk about what is around them that they can access with their little five senses.
Also, we’re not just focusing on repeating single vocabulary words. We’re using those words in a variety of different sentences so that your child not only learns the word but hears it spoken in diverse ways.
Let me give you some examples of how to do that during your evening routine.
Say Good Night to Toys, the TV, And Any Other Distractions
Transitioning from day to night can be a little challenging for children. Saying goodnight to the things around us that we love to engage with during the day is a good reminder that we have to stop playing but that we can start again tomorrow.
Describe what they’re experiencing through their senses: what they’re feeling: the warm water, the soft sponge, the wet floor (hopefully not too wet) and hearing: the splash of the water, the faucet dripping
Give choices: the bar of soap or the soap in the bottle, the rubber ducky or the boats, the rose shampoo or the yellow shampoo
Use action words: Now we’re going to scrub your hair with the shampoo. Show me how you scrub your hair. Let’s scrub the duckies hair. Now let’s rinse all of that shampoo off!
Make up a fun song that you sing while you brush your child’s teeth or they brush their own.
My personal favorite is The Wheels on the Bus, so while brushing teeth, we can sing something like
The bristles on the brush go up and down, up and down, up and down, the bristles on the brush go up and down, all through your mouth.
The water from the faucet goes swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish, swish swish, swish, the water from the faucet goes swish swish swish inside the mouth.
And of course, if you can make up a song in your heritage language and sing that as you go, even better!
Once again, choices are so important! So, offer your child a choice of pajamas and ask which ones they want to wear tonight. The green dragon pajamas from Grandma or the red firetruck pajamas from Santa?
Choosing a Story
Visit some of my past blog posts to get ideas on how to squeeze all of the language you can out of story books because they’re goldmines!
Having a consistent evening routine for your child can help not only your child but you. When they know in what order the evening will unfold, they’ll feel more regulated and less anxious because they’ll know what to expect. If they start to stall on going to bed by throwing out ideas of playing with trains or watching another YouTube video, calmly acknowledge their request and let them know that those activities are going to sleep right now too and that you’ll see them again tomorrow. I hope this was helpful. If I missed something that you usually add to your bed time routines, I'd love to hear about it.