Ahh, fall! The foliage, the crisp temperatures, and the many fun activities! Fall is also an excellent time to target vocabulary development with your child in fun and interactive ways. Vocabulary is the cornerstone of language development for children of all ages. Research indicates that a child may need to hear a word up to 17 times before he or she actually learns the word (Bauman et al., 2003). Here are some vocabulary expansion activities that you can incorporate with your toddler, preschool, or school-age child at home or when you are out and about this fall.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Vocabulary used with this age group includes words such as leaf, apple, tree, pumpkin, hay, and seed. I also like to include descriptor words such as crunchy, dry, cold, wet, big, small, red, orange, etc. One of the best ways for young children to learn new vocabulary is through play and exploration. My toddlers and preschoolers love sensory bins! I have put leaves, mini pumpkins, acorns, pinecones, and apples in a box for them to interact with and explore. Create your own sensory “box” outside in nature. Have your little one help with raking leaves and other fall items in your own yard. Use a public park to find fall items as the ones mentioned earlier in this paragraph. Your child will love completing a fall scavenger hunt with you and the family! Take a few moments to describe and talk about the awesome fall items you stumble upon with your child.
I go more in-depth with the fall vocabulary with this age group. I introduce words such as core, flesh, stalk, pulp, and ribs when discussing typical fall objects such as apples and pumpkins. I also like to incorporate other academic vocabulary by talking about the life cycles of trees, apples, and pumpkins. Similar to toddlers and preschoolers, school-age kids benefit from learning new vocabulary through exploration. School-age children on my caseload enjoy completing science projects such as the pinecone opening experiment or apple volcanoes. They also like completing fall crafts such as leaf wreaths, leaf sun catchers, and stuffed paper apples. Cooking is also an excellent way to incorporate fall and higher-level vocabulary into a functional daily activity. Check out Bethany’s awesome blog post called Pancake Processing for more benefits related to cooking.
Tips for All Ages
Reading with your child is an excellent way to introduce new vocabulary, as well as provide multiple exposures of a word. Local libraries are filled with wonderful fall books for your child. Some of my favorites are Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, and Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson.
Take time to talk about the environment around you when you are at the farmers market, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, or the park. This is also an excellent way to introduce new vocabulary, as well as provide multiple exposures of a word. Happy Fall!
Juliette V. Koepp, MS, CF-SLP
Baumann, J. F., Edwards, E. C., Boland, E. M., Olejnik, S., & Kame’enui, E. J. (2003). Vocabulary tricks: Effects of instruction in morphology and context on fifth-grade students’ ability to derive and infer word meanings. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 447-494.