You spent the first couple years of your child's life naming her world -- remember those sweet little "Whassats?" and the chubby finger pointing at everything from the cat's tail to your eyelashes to the sun? Your little one has lots of words now -- and she's rapidly learning that there are multiple words for things, especially through one-to-one interactions with you. As an article from the Center for Applied Linguistics notes, "The role of the conversational partner is especially important in the preschool years when children are just beginning to acquire language. Young children develop their language skills through interactions with more accomplished speakers of the language." Teach your tiny student about synonyms by modeling them during your everyday conversations, activities and play.
1. Action Synonyms
Chances are your preschooler scarcely ever stops moving. It's exhausting, isn't it? The good news is you can turn his constant antics into an opportunity to teach him synonyms for his actions. As he's running away from you in the mall, you can say, "I see you're running away from Mom. Now can you scamper back here to me, just like a bunny does?" When you're finished reading that story about diggers for the tenth time before bed, say: "The diggers are going to sleep now. It's time for you to rest, too." Other easy, everyday action synonyms: jump/hop, walk/stroll and talk/speak.
2. Feeling and Mood Synonyms
Since most preschoolers display vestiges of their toddlers selves, most can still go from perfectly content to stark raving angry in a matter of minutes. Use these mood swings to your advantage and use this time to teach other words for what your child may be feeling. What you might say? "I know you're feeling angry at me because I wouldn't let you get that new doll today. It's okay to feel mad and I understand." Or you could label her mood: "You're so funny when you can't stop giggling. Are you feeling silly today?" Tired/sleepy, happy/glad and gloomy/sad are other synonym pairs appropriate to teach this age group.
3. Family Synonyms
Most young children are downright fascinated by photographs of people, especially ones they know and love. Which is the reason why your photo albums and framed pictures have been objects of intense interest since your child was nine months old, and are smeared with serious drool. Break out the family photos one afternoon and talk about the different names used to describe people in your family: Mommy/mother, Daddy/father, sister or brother/sibling and baby/newborn. Play a guessing game and ask questions like "Who's the father in our family?" or "Point to your sibling." Your preschooler will be fascinated to learn that different words exist to name all of her favorite people.
4. Animal Synonyms
Your child spent his toddlerhood learning to identify a whole bunch of animals. Now that his language abilities are expanding, it's the perfect time to throw a wrench in all of his -- and your -- hard work and let him know that there's a whole other set of names for all those creatures and beasts. Start with something easy: "There's a cat out that window. Do you see the kitty?" Other synonyms to introduce through play with animal figurines, or by spotting when you're out and about, are dog/puppy, horse/foal, rabbit/bunny and pig/sow.