You can find language in your backyard!

Are you children interested in nature? Could they do with less screen time? Does your child love ‘treasure hunts’ or drawing? Do you need an activity that you can direct from the kitchen?

This activity promotes language-learning, getting outdoors, drawing skills and if need be, an opportunity for you to get the kids out from under your feet!  Of course you might find yourself out in the garden with your kids which is even better, providing you with fresh air and an opportunity to get to know your backyard better too!

Bring in the Backyard Treasure list! This is how we play:

1. Present your child with a special ‘notebook and artist pen’ and tell them they are going to find some treasures in the backyard.  They will need to listen up closely!

2. Challenge your child to find an example of each treasure description you provide (see list below for each treasure description).  Note, each description includes a word that the child must understand to find the correct item, great for language development.  You may need to discuss what the descriptive words mean before they go hunting.

Just a sample of ideas!

Just a sample of ideas!

3. The child must go and draw what they find, not touch.  This is to avoid little hands dealing with spiders and other not-so-safe delights in the garden.  Older kids might be fine to decide what they pick/bring back, but the main aim is for the child to then draw the treasure.  This is great practice for drawing what they see with the motivation of having a collection of drawings of their findings.

4. The child brings their notepad back to show you the drawing and to check if it fits the treasure description.  This is a great time to further promote your child’s language skills by discussing if the item fits the description and how they decided they would pick that particular item.  If it does not fit the description, you may need to provide some examples of the descriptive word, for example ‘wet means there might be water on it, it’s not dry‘).

5. Give the next treasure description.

For older kids, you could provide the written list, as above and let them go out and take on the task themselves.

This activity can then be repeated again and again, encouraging your child to find different items to match the descriptions.  Or think up a list of new descriptions!

Here is the list we have used so far:

  • brown leaf
  • a ‘forked’ stick (one with a ‘V’ in it)
  • a spider
  • something NOT green or brown
  • something moving (don’t touch)
  • something living
  • something when you look up
  • something you can eat
  • something wet
  • something man made
  • something that feels rough
  • something with a nice smell
  • something old
  • something new
  • a green leaf

Don’t forget even words like ‘NOT’ are descriptive words and are important for a child to understand.  A child may not understand the concept of ‘something new’  in the garden, so you may have to explain how ‘new’ relates to the garden.  If your child is not old enough for understanding words such as ‘man made’, think about some other descriptions you could add.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started – more descriptors of how items feel, look, colours, NOT….., quantity.  Remember the more you play with the same descriptions, the more your child has to think outside the box to find something different.

a few 'picked' items

a few ‘picked’ items

And if your child really does like to bring back a collection for you, why not save these in a basket and leave out for later imaginative play!

Let me know how your children get on with this fun yet educational activity!

I Raise My Kids is also at Facebook and Google+!

The pack away game

[12 months] Starting as early as you can, start making a game of packing away, when you have the time!  It is MUCH easier to make packing away a habit rather than a chore that is suddenly expected of children when they are older.

This works for packing away toys where there are many ‘things’, for example, bath toys, duplo, little people, soft animals/teddies, waterplay toys.

The ‘game’ is YOU giving language clues for the child to find the things and bring them to you to put in the box/tub or wherever they belong.  You just need to adjust the clues according to age!

Examples:

  • 12 months – ‘get  cup’ (using signs/gestures is good to give them more of a chance of working out what you are talking about), ‘get duck
  • 18 months – start giving clues, not just the word, such as ‘get big ball’, ‘get elephant with hat’ (signs can still be good)
  • 2 years onwards – start using more describing words (adjectives) such as ‘the spiky dinosaur’, ‘the spotty one’, ‘the  long rake’ or other attributes of the item ‘the one we eat at breakfast’, ‘the one we peel’, ‘the red one’ (and you still might be using your hands!)

Once you start to know the words your child knows, start giving multiple directions at a time such as, ‘get the duck and pig’, ‘find the big teddy and the teddy with no clothes’, ‘get the banana, the watermelon and something we eat for dinner’.

Don’t forget to finish the game by saying ‘hooray’, high fives, ‘you packed away’, ‘you HELPED’!!!!!!

And IF you still have trouble encouraging packing away, why not start by ‘backward chaining’.   That is, you pack away some (or most, depending how young your child is) and get them to help with the last few. That way they can still receive the ‘hoorays’ which sets it on a positive note to try again for next time 🙂

image