Saturday, September 5, 2009

BIG WORDS for Kids!!

Everybody says “Awwwwww” when they hear a child say such words as “mama” “dada”, “lookee”, “potty”, etc. Yes, while it is certainly cute to hear a little voice say those words, have you ever heard a little child speak with proper grammar, more adult-like English, and proper language inflections? When you hear a child speak like that, the “Awwwwww” becomes “WOW”!!!

Shortly before our first child was born, we decided that all of our upcoming kids would learn to speak properly from the beginning and that we would not allow “baby-like” and “cute” substitutes for words that they would have to discard later upon entering elementary school. After all, what is the point of teaching words that can never be used again after a few years? Why not teach the words that kids will actually use when they get older – all the way into adulthood?

So, when my daughter was born, we continually used “grown-up” language around her. We encouraged her to learn to speak properly when addressing others.

After she became quite conversant with everybody (she could hold complete conversations with adults without utilizing “baby-talk”), I decided that it was time to exponentially expand her vocabulary. Note to wives: This is one lesson as to why you should never leave your husbands alone with the kids!!!!!

At any rate, one day when my daughter and I were alone, I started using BIG WORDS to describe various aspects of life around the house. Of course, she asked me for the meaning of the words, we practiced them, and she began to properly use them in sentences.

One of the first words that we used was “Plethora” (Definition: An excessive amount or number; an abundance). I started talking about the plethora of newspapers in the rack, the plethora of leaves on the trees in the backyard, the plethora of ice cubes that were in the freezer, etc.

My daughter, never one to miss a chance to expand her vocabulary (she was a ham from the beginning!), started going around the house pointing out where a plethora of something either did or did not exist. For example, she said, “There is a plethora of ties in your closet, dad” or “There is not a plethora of trash in the garage”. Very early in the lesson on the word, she had clearly gained an understanding of the use of the word “Plethora”.

These types of informal conversations/lessons continued on an almost daily basis. Again, when speaking to adults, our 18-month-old sounded like she fit right in with her complete sentences, proper grammar, proper use of the language, and, yes, using BIG WORDS that somebody-who-shall-remain-nameless had taught to her!

One day, while attending an extended-family birthday party in the presence of nearly 20 adults, my daughter loudly and gleefully announced, “There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table”.

Before that moment, I never believed that it was possible for an entire room of adult conversations to instantly come to a close; have all heads turn in one person’s direction; and then have a few folks say things such as, “WOW, did you hear that?”, “She just said, ‘There is a plethora of birthday gifts on the table’”, and “Where did she learn that word?”.

Then somebody, not quite believing what he had just heard, asked my daughter, “What does that word mean”. My daughter, the ham, proudly announced, “It means an overwhelming amount”. The silent room became even more silent!! My daughter beamed from ear-to-ear at her obviously impressive performance and, of course, it encouraged her to learn tons more BIG WORDS in the future.

Today, she and my two sons regularly engage in chatter that is filled with BIG WORDS, proper grammar, and proper use of the English language, as they converse with their friends, teachers, and family members.

Yes, teaching toddlers BIG WORDS might seem to be a little bit pompous. However, it instilled in my kids the notion that words do matter and, when they speak properly with some BIG WORDS, people listen more carefully and with greater attentiveness, as the more intelligent conversation level opens more doors with more people.

Now, can my kids still converse like kids? Oh, yes, they can! How about this for a sample, “Yeah, I know dude, that is really cool, I mean like, you know, it is awesome”. Yes, those types of sentences make dads cringe, but at least they’ve learned to fit in with their peers when they see it as a necessity!

So, yes, teach your kids the BIG WORDS, proper English, proper grammar, don’t accept anything less, and they’ll grow up to be smart, but they’ll still talk like a kid when the need arises!!

Have a remarkably stupendous, phenomenal, overwhelming, breathtaking, and colossal time with your kids!! And, oh yes, be sure to spend a plethora of time with them!!

Paul W. Reeves

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