As preschoolers begin to master language, they become increasingly aware and curious about the world around them. You can use this natural curiosity to jump-start your child's formal education by introducing enjoyable learning activities that teach them directional words such as out, in, up and down. By mixing formal and informal learning opportunities, you can teach your preschooler to understand and use this new vocabulary.
Get your toddler moving and use directional words to describe his actions. Ask him to stand on the carpet, jump on the bed and hide under the bed. Move along with him as you stand on the floor, hide under the table, and jump over the toy on the floor. Have fun and get silly with your child as you reinforce the meaning of these directional words.
Many children's books use directional words. Buy a few and read them often to your child. Emphasize these words when you come to them. Ask your child questions to get her to use the word you just read. For example, if you read, "The bear climbed up the tree," ask her, "Did the bear climb down?" and then ask, "Where did the bear climb?"
Maximize Every Opportunity
Be on constant alert to maximize every opportunity to use and emphasize a directional word. For example, from the time your child wakes up in the morning, draw attention to the fact that he is getting out of bed, coming out of the house and getting lifted up into the grocery cart. Draw his attention to an airplane up in the sky and have him point up to it and then down at puddles on the ground.
Teach the directional words by playing games using toys you already have. Building blocks can be placed on and under each other. You can first demonstrate the meaning of these words to your child and then ask her to move the blocks to the correct position. If your child can hold a pencil or crayon, you can illustrate the directional concepts by drawing a line on a page and helping her draw animals or shapes over or under the line. Use puppets or small stuffed animals and a box to demonstrate the words "in" and "out," "over" and "under."
For Avanced Learners
Once your child has mastered basic directional words, introduce the more difficult concepts of left and right. If your child is exceptionally bright, try using a globe of the world to teach the four compass points: north, south, east and west.