I receive many phone calls and emails from parents of children who are sometimes younger than 18 months asking what they can do to prepare for school and give their child some “EDGE”. They want to know if it is too soon to begin our Play Prep program. In today’s article I want to address some things they can do to start the journey with their child to be “kindergarten ready”, even from day one.
Narrate your child’s life – enrich it with vocabulary!
We learn about 60% of our vocabulary by the time we are 6 years old.
From the first day you bring your newborn home it is important to begin working on vocabulary. This is as simple as describing everything you do.
Imagine yourself trapped in a body you cannot control as we saw in the recent story made into a movie, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Tell your child what you are going to do then describe it as you do it. Picking her up (“let’s pick you up”), putting on her coat to go outside (“today you are going to wear your pink coat”), walking down the hall ( “isn’t that wall paper horrible, who picked that “greenish” color “) … saying hello to the doorman (“hello Mr. Smith in the gray uniform”), etc… This does not have to stop when she starts crawling, walking or running – just make it more interactive, ask her what she might see when you walk into your home upon arrival, causing her to think ahead.
Talking and playing with your baby, focusing on what interests your baby, and using those interests to stimulate curiosity lays the foundation that will stimulate your baby’s brain to grow and develop. Educational TV, like Sesame Street or other videos are not necessarily a bad thing as long as they are in addition to, not a substitute for, interaction with the mother and father.
Stimulation filled with emotional content and human interaction is pleasurable and meaningful to your baby, sparking their curiosity and helping them to retain what they are learning. This is why the experts suggest reading with your child, but don’t just read to your child; read with them, turning it into an interactive experience. By changing your voice and tone and pointing out pictures as you read, you will engage their imagination and begin to build their vocabulary. This also means having them point to pictures they like and use them to help identify colors, shapes, and possibly animals. If they play the role of passive recipient (like in TV or video watching), they are going to get far less out of the experience than when they are engaged in the process.
2. Nanny No-No : The sad truth is children in NYC are spending far too much time with nannies with little or non-existent English. They are at a greater disadvantage than those at a preschool or with a stay at home mother.
3. Human thesaurus : Look for new ways to say the same thing. Draw analogies through language (“you were running faster than a car or you can hop like a kangaroo”) – paint the picture you both see with words (“the river looks cold and icy because it is such a dark blue color today”).
4. Made-up Story Game : Start telling a story, get him to name the characters and describe what they are wearing, someone else takes over for a while then he tells how it all ends that fateful night!
Importance of Vocabulary
- If your vocabulary is weak, you will understand less and struggle in most subjects.
- Your ability to express yourself is limited by your vocabulary – if your vocabulary is weak, you will be understood less.
- Vocabulary words are on standardized tests for a reason – people with better vocabularies perform better in high school, college and later in life.
- If you make it a habit of using simplistic words, such as “cool” or “great,” people will be unimpressed.
- Even if you are a rocket scientist, other rocket scientists with better means of verbal expression will be hired and promoted ahead of you.If you improve your child’s vocabulary, your child will:
- Earn better grades and increase his / her base of knowledge
- Improve all test scores (including eventually the SAT)
- Get into the best schools
- Perform better in anything he / she does in life