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"Playing Language"

headshot picture of Dr. Kathryn Leech

Developing Language Anywhere, Anytime with Dr. Kathryn Leech & Vroom

Days are busy, and nights can be even busier when you’re raising young children. It’s not always possible to fit in a chunk of time for bedtime stories, and even if you do, it’s a relatively small part of you and your child’s day to dedicate towards language development. That can seem like a tough reality for parents wanting to support their child’s language development, but Dr. Kathryn Leech, an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Education, shares why we don’t need to worry. “There are things throughout the day that build children's vocabulary and language abilities that a lot of parents don't recognize that they're actually already doing.”

Everyday things like cooking and going to the grocery store are likely already part of your routine, but they are also opportunities to support your child in using new and different words. For example the brain building app Vroom suggests playing “Food Shapes”: As you make food, invite your child to point out the Food Shapes they notice, like square-shaped cereal, a pointy carrot with a triangle shape, or a straight piece of spaghetti. Talk back and forth about what they see: What's the same and what's different about the Food Shapes they found?

Dr. Leech’s research focuses on parent-child conversation and emphasizes the importance of the back and forth nature of conversation for language and literacy development. There are so many ways to engage your child in this type of conversation. Dr. Leech recommends starting out by asking your child to recall a past event. For example, asking your child about what happened at school that day or a specific event in the past (like a birthday party). For younger kids, Vroom has a fun activity called “Silly Speech” where you start by asking your child to choose a word. Then say it together in different ways. Use a high voice or a low voice; a loud voice or a soft voice; speak slowly or speak fast. Have fun and keep it going back and forth! Take it to the next level by having a conversation or telling a story together while you play "Silly Speech."

According to Dr. Leech, asking lots of questions and discussing the future is super helpful for kids because it can be cognitively tough for kids to think about things that are coming up, so this really helps them work that muscle. Talking about the future is also “helpful for language development and their emotional regulation so they know to be prepared for something in the future”. (We adults actually work the same way!)

For more language and literacy activities that will seamlessly fit into your already packed day, check out Vroom, a brain building app that is personalized to your child’s age and interests. You’ll be surprised by the abundance of little learning moments that can happen between and during appointments, chores, and meal times!

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