Children’s first words and early vocabulary tend to be noun-heavy or naming the things they see, touch, and hear their parents and other caregivers or family members say out loud to them. But verbs are also important to language development- every sentence needs a verb- and verbs help children to begin using early phrases and sentences and communicate in increasingly complex ways.
This month’s theme shares fun activities for encouraging verbs during play and other daily routines for children to hear and learn new words. Pay attention to what children like (or seem curious about) and follow their lead as long as you are a part of the action, too. Remember, the most important thing is for children to have fun doing this with you! Fun means engagement and that excites children's brains and bodies for meaningful learning to happen.
Early Learners: Name the actions involved with finding the items (“open, pull, jump, bend, push) for the first few rounds of the game to help children understand the learning context before naming and pausing to encourage children to repeat the actions. Quickly do each action you name and hand over the items as children watch and listen.
Older Learners: For children with more speech, take turns naming the actions involved with finding items. If children are not sure how to respond, model a choice between two actions as you name and show each (“Should I reach up high or bend down low to get Mr. teddy bear?”); or demonstrate the action and try again with the next item.
Books- certain books by design have more ways to participate as part of the story and thus more ways for modeling verbs.
Early Learners: Name and point to the actions that children see on the page. Act out the actions if that gives children more reason to watch and you multiple opportunities for modeling the actions. Try books with tabs or pop-up pages to name the actions as they happen. Model and repeat these verbs before pausing the action for children to try to say back.
Older Learners: You can extend this routine by using figurines, dolls, or stuffed animals to act out the actions too, or by encouraging children to act the action out after watching you or imaginary “friend” do it. Use materials around the house as props to do the actions if that adds more excitement to the routine.
Songs- highlight the verbs associated with actions that children like doing as part of songs.
Early Learners: Songs like “Ring around the Rosy” or “London Bridges,” “Row, Row Your Boat,” or “Motor Boat, Motor Boat” lead up to a fun action of falling gently to the floor with children or spinning or dipping them in your arms (although avoid children’s heads falling back). Take children through the song at least twice to orient and excite them. On the next round, pause the song right before doing the action and ask the child, “down?” to repeat for the song to resume. If the child doesn’t respond but is watching you, say and do the action to model the concept and try again in the next round. Once children say, “down,” add other verbs for them to see and hear in the context of the song, like “pull,” and “up” as you show them how to pull you to stand up and “go,” to do the song again.
Older Learners: Try songs with multiple actions that you can name, do, and encourage children to repeat and make choices of which actions to do next. Songs like the “Hokie Pokey,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It, “Shake Your Sillies Out,” or “This is the way” (to the tune of “Here we go round the mulberry bush”) can include lots of different verbs to do as part of the verse.
Action Word Games- using children's favorite cartoon characters, superheroes, toys, or other images can become a fun way to introduce and practice lots of different action words. Take recycled materials like paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, or pasta boxes and tape or glue children's favorite images (hint: print these off via Google images). Write an action word that relates to each image on the box ("push" for a toy car, "roll" for a ball, "pow" for a superhero) and set them on the floor or table for children to see.
Early Learners: Name each image and related action word and then do the action for children to see and imitate after watching you or with a little help if they need to get started. When you are ready to move onto the next image/action, knock down the last box with your hands or with a prop like a party blower, stuffed animal, play figurine, or toy. The action becomes another verb for children to hear or say and something silly that children might find fun and want to do, too!
Older Learners: Pull children into preparing the game materials. They can choose the images to print, cut and glue or tape them to recycled materials, talk about actions words that describe each image, and name the letters or write the action words, themselves. The game can also be varied. You can take turns describing each action word using simple hints or synonyms. Once children guess the correct word, have them look for it and then use the party blower or other prop to hit the word and knock down the recycled material. You can also play by telling children to knock down the action word that starts with the letter "p," or sound "___".