Playing the name game doesn’t have to be hurtful. In fact engaging in word-play through reading, rhyming games, jokes and conversation can help your child articulate his/her thoughts more clearly. Such games can also encourage your child to think empathetically when they understand how hurtful words can be when used irresponsibly. And more importantly rhyming makes teaching reading fun!
Next time you hear your child engaging in jokes or rhyming games, join in. It’s a fun activity that increases their vocabulary and makes them think hard! But, it can also be a hurtful activity if it is turned on another person. If you overhear your child telling nasty jokes about a group of people, or making up rhymes intended to hurt another child, make it clear that a boundary has been crossed without resorting to anger. Ask your child to think about how they would feel if someone said the same things to them.
Reading is a fantastic activity – after all, there are countless worlds and people just waiting to be discovered inside the covers of books. Don’t forget however, that you can play around with the written word. Encourage your child to change the name of a favourite character, or perhaps write a new ending for their favourite story. Ask them to think up the craziest names they can, and get them to read a story to you using the new names they have devised.
Every conversation you have with your child is a learning experience. They are quietly absorbing cues, making value judgements and adopting your language choices. It is important to offer a balanced, positive example with a varied vocabulary. Encourage your child to use new words, talk about new ideas and describe how they feel.
Words and ideas are indeed powerful, but you can’t have one without the other. Give your child the gift of a rich, varied vocabulary and you will ensure that they have the ability to express their ideas and feelings with empathy and respect.