Following Directions
Vocabulary Learning Tips

In order to follow directions, a child must have a solid vocabulary base. If a child has no idea what you are saying, how is he or she suppose to follow the direction. So, first things first, focus on quality vocabulary development. The next section has tips on what TO DO and what NOT TO DO regarding your child’s vocabulary development. Both are equally important.

Learning vocabulary is essential for language development. Learning vocabulary the correct way is even more important. 

You will find tips on how to expose your child to language the correct way so your child can easily learn new vocabulary words. Remember, at this age, children don't learn through drill practice. Instead, they learn best when actively engaged in meaningful play!  Read through the tips and practice the techniques for a few days. Then, move on to the Following Directions game. From time to time, review the vocabulary tips as needed.

Learning Vocabulary: What Not To Do!!

1. Talking to your child as if he or she is an adult

Your child is not an adult so please don't talk to him/her like an adult. Your child's receptive language (understanding skills) are not developed enough. Therefore, if your child can't understand what you are saying, he/she can learn anything new! 

Instead, use simple, direct language. It is more beneficial but more on this later.

2. Letting your child watch more than 30 minutes of screen time on a daily basis

Technology is NOT as good or better than real life conversation for learning language. I don't care what the "advertising experts" say. Trust me on this one! There is NO DVD or TV show out there that can teach your child how to read, count, vocabulary, etc... Your child's brain goes into autopilot mode while watching TV. He or she is not actively thinking or talking. Additionally, it has been proven that children under 2 years of age do not have the cognitive ability to learn from TV!

TV or screen time can even cause sleep issues, attention problems, and/or behavior issues. So, play it safe and turn it off!

3. Scheduling your child in as many classes as possible

Our poor children from birth seem to be scheduled in WAY too many activities. I don't know when this trend started or why....but let's put an end to it.

Young children DO NOT need to be in classes. They NEED to be engaged in creative play where they have freedom to explore and PLAY. Children need to be able to PLAY. Got it?! 

If you want to attend a class or two for parent socialization, go for it. I get it. It is nice to get out of the house and interact with adults. It is necessary for some sanity. Just remember, the class is more for the parents than the children. 

4. Asking too many questions

Don't ask your child too many questions. This can be difficult to do. Adults LOVE to ask questions. I am an offender as well. I catch myself asking questions to my children CONSTANTLY. However, this type of conversation is not the best for young toddlers. First, if your child does answer a question, the answer tends to be no more than one word. Second, your child will learn much more from you modeling language and having a conversation instead of being quizzed.

5. Not allowing enough time in the day for creative play

Playtime may seem frivolous for adults but it is not for children. Children learn best while playing. Therefore, make sure your child has plenty of time for creative play. 

This DOES NOT include TV, computers, Tablets, iPads, and/or phones. This DOES NOT include classes where children have to sit, listen, and be still. 

This DOES INCLUDE playing outside and getting dirty, playing with toys, building creations, reading, etc...

Vocabulary Learning: What To Do!!

1. Talk to your child using simple, grammatically correct language

It is best to talk your child using simple, direct speech. My rule of thumb is to match your child's level of language and then slightly increase it. For example, if your child talks using 3 word sentences, you talk with 4 word sentences. This way, your child can understand what you are saying and learn more. If you talk using complicated grammatical structures, he or she may get lost and stop attending to you. Language learning opportunity lost!

2. Read to your child

Read, read, and read some more! Reading to your child teaches the pre-literacy skills of how books work, basic story structures, and the concept of letters and words. Reading also introduces your child to a large variety of vocabulary and speech skills. Try to read to your child everyday.

3. Play with your child

When able, PLAY with your child. Really play with your child. This means getting on the floor and joining in the game. This also means putting away your phone and computer and being present. 

When you play with your child, you have his/her full attention within their natural environment. This is the best opportunity to help your child learn. Also, you will create strong bonds and have fun. It is playing after all!

4. Expose your child to new vocabulary by exploring the world together

Toddlers are born explorers. Have fun exploring the world with your child. You may have seen a bird one million times but a bird sighting is quite exciting for a toddler. 

Try to muster up some excitement for your child. Your enthusiasm will get your toddler interested. Once you have their attention, you can easily expose your child to new vocabulary words and concepts. 

5. If your child is not in daycare, schedule "free-play" playdates with other children

This tip seems to contradict #3 What Not To Do, but it's not. I promise. It is good for your child's speech, language, and social development to be around kids. Therefore, if your child is at home most of the day with mainly adults, it is a good idea to schedule play-dates. 

By playdates, I am implying that your child plays freely and creatively with other children in the park, at someone's house, and/or in any other natural environment. I do not mean to enroll your child in more classes. This is NOT necessary. Children learn a lot from other children and they challenge each other to be better communicators. Unlike adults, children aren't toddler interpreters.  

What's Next?

There are 2 parts to this Following Directions Section. Click here to practice following directions during functional games. 


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