For children with hearing loss, who have difficulty with incidental listening and often only learn what is “taught” to them, vocabulary and general knowledge tends to be limited. Parents focus their interactions on using language that the children already have or are currently learning and often select vocabulary that is familiar. While this is helpful in the moment, it doesn’t allow for exposure to knew language and concepts. There is a fine line between working on current skills and exposing your child to new concepts
How can you expose your child to new vocabulary?
Go to grocery shopping together. Instead of rushing through your shopping list, take your time to walk through the store. Expose your child to new food vocabulary, use adjectives to describe the foods and maybe even buy something that you’ve never bought (e.g. buy a radish as you discuss bitter, then try it together at home). Make sure you visit all of the areas (can be across different visits) like the bakery, the meat department, produce, the deli counter, and the seafood counter. Even if your child is a picky eater and won’t try items, it doesn’t mean that he/she shouldn’t learn the names for the foods
Go to museums. Museums are great places to learn vocabulary and general knowledge. Visit science museums to learn about animals, the body, and the universe. Visit children’s museums where there are so many hands on exhibits for young children to experience. Visit art museums where you can use different adjectives to talk about the art work you are seeing together.
Talk about current events. Depending on the age of your child, the extent to which you explain the intricacies of an event will differ. However, current events are a crucial part of our culture. When there is a lunar eclipse, a shuttle going up into space, or a presidential election, we see it all over the news and all over Facebook. Some exposure to each of these events can expose your child to many new concepts and vocabulary words.
Take family trips/excursions and talk about them throughout. Go for a hike and talk about what you see, travel to the beach and collect shells and rocks, go to the zoo and talk about the animals, visit new cities, towns, and countries and explore the foods and culture, go to the circus and see and talk about the animals and other circus acts, visit tourist attractions including factory tours (ice cream, glass blowing, chocolate, candy, crayon, etc…), go apple or pumpkin picking. Each of these activities provide so many opportunities for exposure to new language.
Look at the stars together at night. With our without a telescope, on a clear night, look up at the stars and talk about what you see. You can learn about constellations together, count the stars, talk about how bright they are or how far they are from earth.
Expose your child to nursery rhymes. For parents of young children as well as older children, sing or read nursery rhymes to your child. Not only are the rhyme and rhythm great for learning to listen, but nursery rhymes have lots of vocabulary and language that has become part of pop culture. It is not uncommon for themes from nursery rhymes to come up in English class or teens and adults to talk about characters from or use phrases from nursery rhymes.
Listen to popular music together. While most children with hearing loss don’t hear and appreciate music in the same way as their peers, music is definitely something that is a commonality among children. Listen to pop music with your child, search on line for lyrics so your child can learn the words.
Take a trip to the bank. Open up a bank account for your child. Talk about money exposing your child to the different names for coins. Take your child to the ATM. Explain how checking and savings accounts work. Explain what checks are and what it means to make a deposit.
Go to the post office. First write a letter to someone, address the envelope together, put on a stamp. Then look at a map to talk about where it’s going. Finally go to the post office to mail it. Have the person receiving the letter notify you when it arrived. Make sure you use words such as letter, envelope, stamp, address, post office, mailbox, and mailman.
Take a trip to a restaurant. Read together the items on the menu. Talk about the different sections of the menu from drinks to appetizers to entrees to dessert. Talk about types of foods, tastes, flavors and textures. Discuss waiters, waitresses, menus, ordering, utensils, manners, the check, tips.
Look at an atlas or a map. Show your child where you have visited together. Discuss places where family members live. Talk about the different continents, countries and oceans. Talk about the different climates and terrains. Discuss cultural differences between places.
Cook together. The vocabulary that can be used when cooking is endless. Look at food labels, talk about different cooking utensils and dishes, discuss measurements and measuring tools. You can also use so many different verbs as you cook. In my article on cooking, you can find so many more ideas.
With all of these ideas, open the door, go out and explore, and fill up your child’s vocabulary bank! Have fun!