BACK TO SCHOOL: Building language skills as a parent.

With the summer holidays drawing to an end, many of our families are beginning to establish more consistent routines to prepare their children for their transition back to school. Regular sleep schedules are being re-established, while activities before bed time are now quiet and calming ones. Parents are waking up their children closer to the time that they will need to wake for school each day and are keeping eating schedules similar to that of school. All of this helps for a smoother transition back to school after summer break.

As your child transitions into the new school year, there is so much learning and language development that takes place, whether it is their first year of school or their last year of school. Our language skills are always developing, even as adults. Our vocabulary will always continue to grow and develop throughout our life time.

As parents, we have an important role to continue to nurture the learning that takes place at school and to help our children to further develop their language skills. The following activities will help you to support your child’s learning.

1. Link learning from school with home based activities: If your child is learning about the solar system then it might be fun to look up some solar system websites, you might borrow a book from the library on solar systems or you could do a craft activity making some of the planets.

2. Talk to your child about their learning: Each day, ask your child what they have learnt at school or what fun activities they got to complete. Talking about what they did at school helps to consolidate the new learning that took place. Show an active interest in any work that they bring home. Celebrate what they achieve and have fun talking about school.

3. Talk talk talk to model good language: Having your child see you talk through your daily routines is another wonderful way to expose them to great language. Talk as you are doing daily tasks i.e. “I’m just about to go and hang the washing out.” “First I’m going to put the flour in and then the egg.” When you are shopping at the supermarket pick two objects and encourage your child to describe how they are the same and different. For example; Carrot/Cucumber– They are both vegetables, they are both long and skinny, but they are different colours. Language also includes reading and writing. Make sure your children see you reading and writing during everyday activities i.e. reading books, recipes, magazines, websites and bills.

4. Play language learning games like the following:

Category activity: An object is named. The next person must think of an object that is in the same category. It could be related based on where it is located, its function and/or attributes. For example if the object named is /pot/, other items related to this could be a /pan/ (as it's found in the kitchen). If a player provides the name of an object that others do not understand, then they must justify why they provided that word.

Describing words: Players must take turns providing two describing words for something that they can picture in their mind. The other players must take turns to guess what the object is i.e. someone may provide two words yellow/round and the answer may be a (lemon).

5. Read and foster a love of literacy: Read with your child daily. Reading exposes children to so many wonderful language related skills. It exposes them to new sentence types, vocabulary, grammatical forms and helps them understand the structure of different texts. These are all very important skills for learning.

While doing all of this remember to have fun and to continue to foster a love of lifelong learning in your children.

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