tykeTALK: Grandparents' Role

Grandparents often share a special bond with their young grandchildren. They are in a wonderful position to help any preschool child learn language.

Grandparent's Role in Supporting Language Development

If you are a grandparent, you already recognize that you may have a life that is not as busy as your grandchild’s parents. You can provide fun language learning opportunities that may also be unique.

Language learning opportunities are available at the grandparent’s home as well as at many community agencies. These agencies offer either informal drop in or more structured programs for groups of preschool children, at each stage of development. The Ontario Early Years Centres offer many programs that will be fun for your grandchild. Find out more about these programs and about Ontario Early Years Centres.

You don’t need fancy games or toys. Your grandchildren will enjoy the fact that you are spending time together. Baking cookies can teach children new words. Say the names of ingredients and action words like ‘stir’, ‘pour’, ‘bake’ and ‘eat’. Fun words like ‘yummy’ ‘sticky’ and ‘all gone’ can also provide new vocabulary.

Working in the garden can be a relaxed opportunity for language development. Words that you can teach might include ‘dig’, ‘rake’ and ‘cut’. In this setting, you can also share the adventure of finding a worm and talking about it or jumping in a puddle together and learning the words ‘splash’ and ‘wet’. Children love to visit local playgrounds, especially when they can share these experiences with grandparents. Playing on swings, climbing equipment, and going down the slide are not only fun activities for children, but also provide wonderful opportunities for learning new vocabulary and forming new sentences. You can model sentences or ask questions, like: “You are climbing the ladder.”, “You are going down the slide quickly.”, “What should we play next?” “What can we do on the swing?” “We can go up and down on the swing.” Your grandchild will be able to have fun, and will not realize that they are actually practicing new vocabulary, new sentences, and answering questions.

If you have a digital camera, you can also take pictures of activities you share. Make a book for telling stories about your experiences. Your grandchild will love to be able to tell these stories over and over again.

As children get older and develop more language, grandparents can involve them in becoming aware of the importance of print. Of course, you can never read too many books. Children love to share special reading times with grandparents. You can also plan projects and search catalogue books. Point out tools or kitchen materials and share a whole new and unique vocabulary. Give your grandchild paper and pencil for writing stories, making shopping lists, and creating a birthday or holiday wish list. This will help your grandchild understand that print is important. At the earlier preschool years, it will be important for you to translate your grandchild’s scribbles into meaningful words.

Library story times for children provide wonderful opportunities for you to share stories, rhymes and books with your grandchild. For more information on public libraries in your area click on London Public LibraryMiddlesex County LibrariesElgin County Libraries or Oxford County Libraries.

You can also visit the following websites for more ideas:

Sometimes grandparents are surprised when their children tell them that they are concerned about their own children’s speech and language development. It is always a good idea to check out what children should be doing at certain ages. You can use the tykeTALK Communication Checklist to find out. More recent research tells us that early intervention is very important. We never want to wait and see! Although we are only able to accept referrals directly from parents, if you are concerned about your grandchild’s speech and language development you can refer your grandchild’s parent to our website for more information.


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