Children and dogs make great friends. Dogs can teach children about empathy, responsibility and can also support their self-esteem. There are also lots of opportunities to develop your child’s language when playing with your dog. To celebrate International Dog Day I’ve written a blog with some ideas about supporting child language development with your children and beloved furry friend.
Earlier this month we brought our puppy Barney to his forever home and are adjusting to family life with our gorgeous, active cockapoo. This is the first time I’ve had a pet dog but I have already noticed that I am using some of my skills from working with children and applying them successfully with Barney’s training (e.g. using simple language and lots of repetition!) My husband is experienced with dogs so we’re making a good team and Barney is settling in well.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dog, there are a range of language opportunities for your child, such as:
- Walking the dog
- Talk about what you can see with your child – there’s lots of language opportunities to talk about your environment and this will change depending on where you are walking.
- Comment on what you can see and hear – “Barney is chasing the ball”, “the dog is barking”, “the children are playing on the sand” etc.
- Take some photos and talk about them at a later date – with older children, you could talk about their favourite place to walk the dog
- Dogs love routines and this could be used to help your child understand routines too. For example: eat breakfast, take dog for a walk, dog naps (etc.) – you could use visuals to support this for younger children and for those who may be struggling to understand spoken language. Visuals are great because they are constant, when the spoken words disappear.
- As with walking the dog, there are lots of language opportunities when playing with your dog. A range of vocabulary could be introduced with younger children e.g. ‘ball’, ‘run’, ‘jump’ etc.
- Barney loves being given a choice of 2 toys to play with. He can consistently choose which toy he wants when presented with a choice of two. The excitement he shows when he then plays with his chosen toy compared to when we give him a toy we’ve chosen is amazing.
- Choices are a great way to promote language development. For younger children, show them 2 items (e.g. two toys or two snacks) and let them indicate which one they want. If they are unable to say the word, accept any attempt e.g. pointing, reaching, gesture etc. and provide the word for them. For older children, you could add verbal choices too.
Pretend play - Even if you don’t have a pet dog there are lots of opportunities for language development through pretend play. If your child has a cuddly toy dog it could be used in a range of ways to promote language development.
- Modelling verbs – feeding, washing, jumping, running
- Understanding language – use a toy dog and another toy and take turn to give instructions e.g. ‘feed teddy’, ‘brush dog’ etc.
- Stories - adults could make up simple stories using the toy dog, and older children could be encouraged to join in with the story telling.
Children learn language best when they are having fun. Using language linked to what your child is interested allows more opportunity to learn language that is meaningful to the situation.
Enjoy having fun helping your child learn language with (or without!) your dog! Happy International Dog Day.
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