Your toddler may not accomplish much with his tot-sized broom, but encouraging him to help around the house is a unique opportunity to support his language development.
According to Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist Mandy Alvarez, “the routine nature of chores offers predictable expectations. When children know what to anticipate, they’re much more available for learning.” Plus, Alvarez adds, “exposure to similar language each time a child engages in a chore reinforces that learning.”
And it’s not just the real chores that count. “Imitating chores,” Alvarez says, “creates an invaluable opportunity for imaginative play, which is essential for language development. While imitating a chore, a child creates his own story, takes on new perspectives, and plays with ideas. Imaginative play is also important because, like language, it involves the ability to represent symbolically. As a child’s play evolves, his language closely follows.”
Let’s take a look at some of the language skills your toddler learns during simple, routine chores like sweeping, wiping tables, and putting things away:
Vocabulary & Concepts
Chores expose your little one to new vocabulary and concepts, such as broom, sweep, cloth, squeeze, wipe, on, across, inside, etc.
When your toddler helps you put things away, he learns about sorting objects into categories. While picking up toys, for instance, he learns that blocks go in a bin together, small cars go in another bin, and big cars go on a shelf. In his toy kitchen, you can start to teach him to group vegetables in one container, fruits in another, and so on.
Understanding and carrying out instructions is a complex language skill at the heart of learning and success in daily life. Your little one gets lots of practice following simple, one or two-step directions while helping around the house.
Being able to perform actions in the correct order to complete a task is an essential language skill, and chores are a great way to teach it. Remember that your little one will need your help several times before he masters sequences on his own.
Successfully working with another person to complete a task is a pragmatic (social) language skill that spans all areas of life. Helping around the house presents lots of opportunities to collaborate. For example:
- He hands you a toy, you put it in the correct bin.
- You sweep the floor, he brings you the dustpan.