Welcome back, Mommas! My daughter is 19 months old tomorrow and I cannot believe how fast time has gone. Not only is she getting big, but her language is growing by leaps and bounds. The other day L pointed to the picture and said “fish!” I didn’t even know she knew what a fish was. She has never seen a fish in real life and yet she connected the dots. How? Through labeling. Maybe it was at daycare, maybe through a TV Show, or maybe it was just from hearing other adults use the word in conversation…. But my daughter knew what a fish looked like and she knew the word, too.
Labeling is very simple. In fact, it’s so effortless you may do so without realizing. Labeling is the act of naming and/or describing items that are in a child’s visual field. When you label an item, you give the child an opportunity to hear a word and make an association between the action or item the child is engaged with and the word. The more opportunities a child has to hear a word, the more likely she is to remember that word and use it in communication.
Label during playtime to introduce new words and concepts.
As your child plays at home, comment on the items she picks up. “Oh, look at that doll!” “you have a toy car” and “feed the doll with the spoon” are simple phrases that teach a lot to kids. Label colors, shapes, sizes, or other descriptors (e.g., in/out, big/small, up/down, open/close, fast/slow). Describe and comment on the action too, not just the toys. When a child is playing with a ball, you can say, “You’re playing ball” or “bounce the ball!” Walk outside and comment on the items you see like “look, a red bird!” or “see that bird flying?” These are great ways to introduce new words in a natural environment. Read a book and label items on each page. You do not have to read the words provided every time – create your own story, Momma! Label the animals, colors, size, etc.
You can provide vital speech therapy by labeling items during daily routines.
While folding laundry, label the clothing items, describe the colors, and talk about the body part we wear the clothing on. A red shirt for your chest, white socks for your feet, etc. You can get really creative with an older child and make folding laundry a fun speech game! You can say “Mommy needs the white clothing item that goes on my foot” and see if your child can bring you the correct item. For younger kids, you can name the child’s body parts during a bath or diaper change. Point and name at the same time so your child connects the word to the body part. When loading the dishwasher pull a step stool next to you for your child to stand on. As you clean each item, label it and hand it to your child to put in the dishwasher. This makes cleaning and learning fun for everyone! During a shopping trip, label items as you walk through the aisle. My daughter loves to sit in the cart and hold mini conversations with me – all over the names of new items.
As children develop, the words they understand increase as well as the words they say. Opportunities to learn new words and interaction with others is key to increasing a child’s vocabulary. Labeling is a simple thing you can do at home to introduce new words. Try some of the ideas above. For more, click here to access my free parent resource guide!