Chances are you grew up singing “Old MacDonald had a Farm” and now sing it frequently to your little one. Even if you aren’t actively plowing fields or milking cows, there’s a good chance farm life and farm animals make for a heavy rotation in your children’s toy box, not to mention their storybook collection. Other than being cute and fun to talk about, these early forays into farm life are actually quite important for your developing child’s language acquisition and social skill development because as we introduce children to the world of the farm through words and sounds, we’re not only introducing them to our language but also to the world that children see around them.
So while singing your baaa baa’s and moo moo’s might just feel like a fun way to pass the time with your toddler, know that those sounds and exploring life on the farm are actually serving as valuable preparation for preschool and beyond. So let’s hear an EEEE-IIII-EEEE-IIII-YAY and discover 5 ways that teaching your children all about life on the farm can benefit their vocabulary and development.
Say Moo! Animal Vocabulary Helps Pronunciation
Many farm animal words such as pig or duck, contain sounds that are easy for young children to replicate and learn. The reason for this is that these words have consonants that we pronounce at the front of our mouths so children can actually see our lips moving as we say them making them even more easily detectable for language acquisition. Also, animal sounds use many of the common sounds from the English language, otherwise known as phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound and they help us distinguish words. So moo and baa are actually not just a cow and a sheep talking, they are common phonemes that help prepare children to talk, read, and write.
Toy Pick: Farm Balancing Act Stacking Game
Farming for Sentences: Animal Vocabulary Helps Early Sentence Building
As your child learns how each animal talks, they will begin to combine those sounds and start to create early sentences as they combine words. Joining words like Moo cow or Horse neigh, are actually the building blocks of a sentence. Because farm animal words are fun to say and engaging, this process is easy for young children that are between the ages of one and two and will encourage them to try longer combinations. By introducing your child to a variety of nouns and verbs, they will begin to add these words to their sentences and more connections will begin to occur.
No Horses in the Chicken Coop! Farm Play Encourages Early Classification
Around age 3, children begin to create groupings and categories within their world. Whether they sort things by size, color, or shape, this early categorization is enhanced by farm play. Big horses and smaller horses form a horse pile or different colored dogs create a dog category. To extend this categorization instinct and awareness of characteristics, point out animals that you encounter in real life or through books and magazines. As you notice the different animals, talk about the sounds they make, the color of their coat, and what they eat.
Toy Pick: On the Farm Arranging Game
There’s a lot Happening on the Farm! Farm Play Introduces Social Skills
Knowing a variety of farm sounds will give children a leg up during group and interactive activities at story times, play dates, and preschool. Knowing the refrains to popular animal songs and stories will help your child to learn how to take turns, listen closely, and imitate. And there’s another way that this farm lingo can help with social situations, it might even help your toddler from flinging their toy at their sibling by helping them express emotions when words can’t. By noticing how a dog barks or growls or a chicken clucks repeatedly when upset, a child may borrow these sounds to express their frustration if they don’t have the exact words for what they are feeling.
Animals Need Love and Care: Farm Play Teaches Important Life Lessons
By recreating life at the farm and telling stories about animals and how they live, eat, play, and sleep, young children begin to understand the importance of loving and caring for the creatures of our world. Which translates into the need to care about others, which in turn builds empathy. Empathy is one of the most important skills we can share with our children and this time is the perfect time for this lesson as research shows that the second year of life is the most critical period for the development of empathy.
Toy Pick: Little Friends Petting Zoo with Farm Animals