In our last speech and language post, Kimberly discussed taking an exotic field trip from home. As the weather slowly gets warmer (in some parts of the country) and spring break approaches, many of you may be busy planning more extensive family vacations. These trips can become part of your child’s favorite memories and offer many learning opportunities. Family vacations are something to look forward to, but can sometimes go from relaxing to stressful in a matter of moments. Today, we will talk about how to prep your child for vacation and build his/her language, while still enjoying a relaxing family break.
First, let’s discuss vacation planning with your child. Depending on how often you travel and the personality and age of your child, vacations can be smooth or nearly stop you from planning any trips over 30 minutes away. Discussing travel ahead of time with your child can help him/her to mentally prepare for the journey and give you a chance to explore new vocabulary your child may encounter on the trip.
Figure out your travel plans and share them with your child.
Are you going by car or by plane? If you will be going to the airport, talk about waiting in the security line, sending your luggage through the machinery and sitting on a plane. Show your child pictures of the inside of an airport and airplane. You may even want to practice waiting in line, wearing backpacks. Think about activities you can bring for your child no matter what your mode of transport. An age-appropriate book about your destination can be a great idea!
Prep your child for new language by talking about where you are going.
If you are visiting a new place, describe it to your child. Going to snowy mountains for the first time? This is a perfect chance to talk about snow, layers of clothing you will wear and activities like sledding and skiing. Try to begin prepping your child 2-3 weeks in advance by thinking of stories and songs that relate to your vacation spot. If you are visiting family in a town that is not so different from your own, look at family albums and point out people your child will see. Talk about how you will greet your relatives and acquaintances, and discuss special foods you may eat.
During your trip, keep an eye out for ways to expand your child’s language.
If your family is on a road trip, point to interesting things from the car. Try to find something you see on the road a lot (e.g., cows, palm trees, etc.) and challenge your child to find them next. This will help to build both the vocabulary he/she understands and uses. As you visit your destination, think about novel activities you can do with your child, such as visiting a museum or a petting zoo. Again, name interesting people and things and watch your child imitate you as you move along.
After the trip, make an album to remember your adventures.
While you are traveling, it is likely you will take many pictures. Make a point of saving small items that may serve as mementos for activities your child enjoyed, such as a brochure for a water park. When you return, print your favorite photos, especially ones including your child. Make a scrapbook together by pasting photos and souvenirs into a journal. Go over the pages, and see if your child can tell you about the events in the book. If your child has trouble, use simple language to describe what happened. For instance, you can say “This is Mount Hood. You touched the snow for the first time and went sledding with Dad. At lunch, you drank hot chocolate with marshmallows. Yum!” Over time, your child will learn from your descriptions how to retell these stories him/herself. Encourage him/her to share these stories when friends or family come over.
Try these tips on your next vacation and tell us how it goes!