We’re major animal lovers in our family. We have four dogs and a cat. In a perfect world, I’d probably own a few horses, a cow, some chickens and at least one goat as well. And so, animals play a massive role in our daily lives. If you’re like us, and have a pet (or a few pets), you’ll be happy to know that talking about them and playing with them can be great for your child’s speech and language development!
Let’s see 5 ways that you can use your pets to boost your child’s language!
- Animal sounds
This one is pretty obvious. Most children are taught that dogs go “woof” and that cats go “meauw” from very young. And that’s great. But expand on that! Imitate other sounds that the animals make, like growling and purring. Talk about how the animals feel when they’re making the sounds. Make sure you also describe the animal by name.
When language is being developed, children will quite often generalise one animal’s name to all other animals, for example if your child has been exposed to dogs, and sees a cat, she might call out “doggie!”. Talk about the differences between the animals, but also about their similarities! So yes, the cat has four legs and a tail like a dog, but it says “meauw”, not “woof”, and likes to climb trees.
I mention routine in most of my posts, because routine is just such a valuable tool for learning! Having a pet usually means that there are a few chores that need to be done: feeding, cleaning up, taking the dog for a walk, playtime, the list goes on. Involve your child in these routines. For example, if you go to feed the dog, have her help you. Describe what you’re doing. You can even involve your child in the gross poop-scooping! Describe what you’re doing, and make sounds whilst you’re doing it: “Phewwy, that’s a smelly one.” Pull your face and watch how your child laughs and imitates you!
This is my favourite one! Of course, it helps to have a pretty obedient dog with this one. We’ve got a sheepdog, so when we have kids over, she’s the star! With even the littlest of tots, you can join them in practicing single words like “go” and “fetch” “lie down”. Start at the level of your child. If your child isn’t using words yet, wait for her to make a sound, and then you give the instruction to the dog! Play is such an important means of learning, and an animal joining in in the play is just extra fun.
Last one! This one is a bit more complex than the others, so you’ll be doing this with a slightly older child who already has quite a few animal names in her expressive vocabulary. Talk about different animals and their names, and have your child categorize them into different kinds of animals. These can be animals from a book or a movie as well! For example, in the Aristocats, you can categorize all the cats, then some of the other animals they meet: Geese, Dogs, a Mouse, a Horse. Later, you can talk about different kinds of animals: birds, mammals, fish, and have your child categorize animals into those categories.
Let me know if you’ve had fun talking about animals with your little one! I love to hear the stories.