In last week’s post, I touched on how toddlers learn language and shared a simple activity to help teach toddlers vocabulary.
In this post, I share follow-up activities to promote language learning with toddlers, as well as some tips when doing these activities at home.
Language Objects & Cards
Language objects and cards are such a simple, inexpensive and fun way to teach toddlers vocabulary and engage them in meaningful work, as early as 14 months up until the age of 3! I not only love how versatile these activities are, but also how handy they can be during trying moments.
These activities are extra helpful when:
It’s a rainy or snowy day and your children’s energy levels are crazy. Engage your toddler in this purposeful work and you’ll see an immediate shift in energy. It’s then much easier to redirect kids to a different work or toy once they are a bit calmer, grounded and more focused.
You’re feeling tired and need a moment to just sit with your toddler. We have all been there! Language activities are great when you feel like you need a little rest, because they don’t require too much work on the part of the adult.
You feel your toddler is bored. I hear this one a lot from parents. My toddler seems bored at home and I don’t know what to do. I feel like he/she needs a more challenging environment than the home can provide. Those are the moments that kids are basically asking us to engage them in work that challenges them. Have these language objects and cards ready to go ahead of time or collect new objects together and let the learning begin!
How to Use Language Objects & Cards with Toddlers
At this point, you have already done Activity 1 with your toddler and he/she can clearly differentiate the names of the objects (remember, a toddler doesn’t need to express language to move onto the next activity. It’s all about receptive language).
Once a toddler knows the vocabulary of the objects from Activity 1, you would then continue with Activity 2 and eventually 3.
Activity 2- Objects and their matching language cards
Materials: A basket that holds the same objects that you used in Activity 1 with their matching cards. Ideally, the cards would be a photocopy of the objects, as we are trying to support the child’s ability to abstract. If you aren’t able to make the cards, try and choose language cards that look very similar to the objects you are using. Another option for replica objects is to purchase the objects and cards as a set (I include some links below).
Continuing with the fruit example from Activity 1, you can start by reviewing the names of the objects. “Remember this is an orange. This is a banana. This is a kiwi.”
Then place a language card in front of the toddler and say, “This is a picture of the banana.”
You’ll then take the banana and slowly place it directly on top of the card saying, “The banana fits right on top of the picture.” Again remember, the goal is to show your toddler the connection between the real apple and the photo of an apple.
Take the next card and repeat steps 2 and 3. “This is a picture of the kiwi. The kiwi fits right on top of the picture.”
You will continue with all of the cards and their matching objects. Each time you present a new language card, your toddler can help you find the object that matches it.
At the end of the lesson, your child can put this work away or explore the cards and objects on his/her own.
Follow-up activity 2.1: Once your child has mastered activity 2, you can invite him/her to use the work in a different way. Something fun to do is to have your child lay all the cards out on a table or the floor. On the other side of the room, you’ll have the objects in a basket. Your child will walk back and forth from cards to the basket, choosing an object and placing it on the matching card.
Follow-up activity 2.2: Similar to the above, your child will start by setting all of the objects out on a table or the floor. This time, he/she will retrieve one card at a time from the other side of the room and place it under that matching object.
I love both of these follow-up activities because they engage the child in a new way while incorporating movement, which is vital to learning.
Activity 3- Only language cards
Materials: A basket that holds 6-8 language cards. At this stage, you will be using language cards that either have real photographs on them or beautiful drawings. Ideally, the image will be on a white background.
Once your toddler, has completed Activity 2 and the follow-up activities, you will then present this activity.
You can start by choosing 3 language cards that you will show your toddler. In this example, let’s use language cards or flashcards of sea creatures.
You will place the first card in front of your child and say, “This is a picture of a dolphin.”
Place the next card in front of the child and say, “This is a seahorse.”
Take out the third card and say, “This is a humpback whale.” You’ll present 3 cards at a time, just like you did in Activity 1. You’ll then play the same game from Activity 1.
Play the game with the three cards you have shown your toddler. Remember the goal of the game is to help your toddler associate the vocabulary with the image in a fun way. It is NOT to have them say the vocabulary out loud. You will play the game saying things like, “Can you give me the dolphin. Can you touch the seahorse. Can you put the humpback whale above your head.” As soon as you notice your child is tired, starting to lose interest, or isn’t grasping the correct names, STOP playing the game.
After playing the game or transitioning off the game, let your toddler know that he/she can do this work whenever he/she would like to. At another time, you will introduce three more language cards (a seal, a shark and a starfish) and repeat steps 1-5.
Follow-up activity 3.1: Put all the cards in the basket, and place them on one side of the room. You will then sit on the other side of the room. The child will walk over to you and you will tell him/her which card to bring you. “Can you bring me the seahorse?” It’s important that you make this feel fun so that the child enjoys it.
Where to find language objects & cards:
Look for good replica objects when at the toy store, zoo or aquarium. I have found some of the best and most realistic looking replicas when out and about at toy stores or in the gift shops at museums and zoos.
Make your own language cards on powerpoint. It’s really so easy to do and doesn’t take much time since you are simply dragging and dropping images. I like using power point because I can resize the images easily while viewing the other images to make sure they are proportional to one another.
Montessori services sells miniature replica objects that you can purchase in a bundle or separately.
Please note links are affiliate links.
My gift to you is a free download of 10 fruit language cards. All you have to do is cut the cards on the black lines (laminate for durability).
Extra Tips & Reminders
Each activity should be in its own basket or tray so a child can easily access it.
We include 6-8 objects in each activity and only present 3 at a time.
It’s helpful to laminate the language cards and make sure edges are rounded. This keeps them in good condition and also keeps your toddler safe.
It’s important to move slowly and speak slowly when you are doing this work. You are teaching vocabulary so make sure to pronounce each word well.
Make the game portion of these activities fun. If you aren’t using a fun and happy tone, your toddler will not feel it is a game and not want to play with you. Get into the role and make it feel like you are doing something really fun and special together. It may sound funny but you can get into character and be genuine at the same time!
You’ll want to change out objects and card every few weeks or so. You’ll be able to tell when it’s time to change a work out because your child will either start to use it incorrectly out of the blue or will stop using it all together. This means it’s time to move on to something new.
Remember proportions are important when making your own language cards.
Kids need tangible real experiences before they are able to abstract.
I would love to hear from you. How did you enjoy this post? Will you try language objects & cards in your home?