By Allen Brown
When a child is learning to read and express themselves verbally, it can be a time of great reward and excitement—finally, you’re able to hear their thoughts and feelings in detail with layers of context added. This being said, it can also be a dreadful time where everyone involved feels like slamming their face into a door, repeatedly, because nothing is sticking, and every lesson is a fight.
The following will explore some of the ways you can make learning new words fun for you and your child. Of course, there are certain conditions that make things harder for children. If you suspect your child is struggling outside the norm, there is no harm in speaking to a medical professional. You might be given resources you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. You might be connected with professionals who have been helping kids who were struggling for decades and know how to bring about a learning environment that meets your child’s needs.
Take The Pressure Off Yourself
This is a big one, and for most parents, it’s the hardest one. Children are highly intuitive beings, and if they sense that you’re miserable when trying to teach them, they’re likely also going to dread learning. It’s important that you let go of specific milestones that you feel your child has to reach within a certain time frame.
It can be hard to let go of your own expectations—you might be trying to overcompensate for the lack of support you were given as a child or the negative experiences you had in school that you believe come from your own learning pace. You might be defining your own worth by your child’s educational successes or failures. You might be embarrassed that your kid feels a little behind. Whatever the feelings you have surrounding your child learning new words, it’s okay. You’re not the first parent to feel this way, and you certainly won’t be the last. Take a moment to acknowledge why you’re putting so much pressure on yourself and your kid to learn at a particular pace.
The goal is progress, not a certain number of words by a certain age. Yes, that one woman at soccer practice is super annoying and always bragging about her daughter’s grasp of the English language, and it would feel fantastic to put her in her place. It’s important to note that study after study has proven that young children tend only to learn one big thing at a time. Just because your kid hasn’t completely mastered this skill doesn’t mean they’re not mastering others—it might be sharing, or compassion, or hand-eye coordination, or any other highly valuable development. You can bet that the soccer mom’s kid, while great with words, isn’t mastering other skills in other areas at the same pace.
Play Word Games
Study after study has found that children learn best when they’re having fun. Play is an integral part of how kids learn about and grow comfortable with the world. Younger kids might like a scavenger hunt for words. Older kids might like to be given puzzles like a series of letters that need unscrambling. If technology is where your child wants to be, consider playing around with online word-learning tools like at Unscramble.me. Ask your kids what type of games they would like to play and see if you can incorporate new words into them.
Clay And PlayDoh
Some children learn best when they have something in their hands. If this is your child, consider building the words out of clay together that you’re working on. Rolling out skinny pieces of playdoh and shaping them into letters will not only help set the memory of the word in stone, but it’s also an incredibly relaxing activity. Reduced stress is better for optimal learning (you might even want to join them and make your own copy of the word).
Music and rhyming are also great ways to teach kids new words. In particular, younger children have fun with rhyming. Beyond being fun because of the sing-song nature of rhyming words, approaching new words this way can help children understand root words and common spelling of syllables. This knowledge will be able to help them continue to develop their understanding of the language as they age.
The above suggestions are just a few of the ways parents can make learning new words fun for children. Of course, no one knows your child better than you do. You know when your kid needs a break or when something isn’t working. Always trust your instincts as a parent.