Building Language On the Go

Helping our little ones learn to talk is one of our most important roles as parents—and even though it’s a big job, we don’t have to set aside special time to do it! You can use your parenting superpower—multitasking 😅—to help your little one take their vocab, speech, & language skills to the next level while you’re out and about.

While your little one won’t be driving for quite a while, you can start with road signs:

Here’s one you can do on the road (or even while you’re stuck in the pediatrician’s waiting room, if they have a window facing the street)—name any road signs you see, and teach your kiddo how to recognize them.

Try using descriptive words your child might not already know; even if it seems too advanced, they pick up SO MUCH by connecting the new words with what they see. You might say, “There’s a stop sign. It’s red with white writing, and it’s in the shape of an octagon. That means it has eight sides.”  

Check out all the sounds around you, then imitate the sounds and connect them to words (cars honking, a helicopter buzzing overhead, the automatic door at the grocery swooshing open). You’ll be surprised how quickly your baby goes from making honking sounds to saying “car!” Once they’re about three, you can change it up by creating a pattern with the sounds—honk, honk, buzz, swoosh—and challenging your little one to repeat it.

I have just about the worst singing voice ever, but everyone sounds good in the car, right?! And good news—our kids don’t care how we sound—but they sure like music, especially on the go.

Whether you’re a mini-van maven or walking to the subway, kids love hearing us make up songs. Even if your baby’s too young to sing along, they’ll be thrilled to hear you make up a tune about their favorite toy, or what you’re going to do when you reach your destination.

As their skills evolve, make up some songs together, which prompts them to connect words and ideas. 

Describe your commute out loud—the words you use to talk about which way you’re going and how you’ll get there helps build vocabulary and introduces your kiddo to spatial language (words that explain where things are).

For example, you might say, “To get to daycare, we’re going to turn left around the next corner, go through the tunnel, and over the big gray bridge.”

When it comes to communication, body language is almost as important as words! Using your hands when you describe things helps baby connect your words and actions (though obviously save this for when you’re not driving)!

Some ideas: Wave when you say “bye-bye,” lift your arms up over your head while talking about a tall building, or pretend you’re driving the bus you see with its oversized steering wheel.

Kids who are a little older can understand the concept of rhyming, so pick something you see (like a sign, a van, or a store) and challenge your kiddo to list all the words they can think of that rhyme with it, or take turns adding words to the list. Try to beat your last record!

HUGE thanks to my buddies at Sesame Street In Communities for helping me with these fun ideas—hopefully you’ve got a few new activities to try with your tot.