Label your home to boost second language learning and literacy skills
Labeling everyday objects in your home is a simple and constructive way to encourage language and literacy growth in your child. Putting small labels on objects like the sofa, table, or lamps gives kids an opportunity to see and read the object’s name each day. Making a print-rich environment at home could be just what your child needs to learn new vocabulary or practice early literacy skills!
A print-rich environment is a setting where children are surrounded by words and letters. The letters, logos, and words we see all around us are called environmental print. In our home, this is a label on a peanut butter jar, a logo on a coffee mug, a calendar, or a white board we use for chores or activities.
Surrounding our children with print creates connections between letters and their first efforts in learning to read. But we can go beyond labels for shampoo bottles or pasta boxes. We can label anything in our home to help kids learn how to read – or practice new vocabulary – in one language or TWO!
What does a print-rich environment look like at home?
Creating a print-rich home has many benefits. Surrounding kids with letters and words at home gives them opportunities throughout their day to interact with print. Emergent readers (early readers just starting out) will start to read words around the house because they will have a real object to match with the word.
They already know what the word should be, like chair, and they can see and “read” the word. Or, they know the word in English (like chair) and are linking the object to its name (silla) in the second language.
If your child is already reading, the labels can be used to help practice home vocabulary words in the second language. Getting ready in the bathroom in the morning? The child will see the labels for toothpaste, soap, or sink in the second language. Playing in the living room? Kids will see the word labels for couch, chair, or lamp.
Labeling objects around the house provides an everyday opportunity for reading and vocabulary learning at home. Simply add a small label with the object’s name directly to it. Basic black and white labels will be easiest for children to read without getting distracted by colors or fancy writing. Remember, you want the object name to be the focus.
The label doesn’t need any special image or drawing of what the word means, because it will already be directly on the object it represents. Using realia (real everyday objects) makes a very concrete connection for learning vocabulary words.
However, if you’re going to put the label for bowl on the kitchen cabinet door behind which they’re stored (instead of directly on a bowl), I would recommend drawing a black and white bowl on the label. You want it to be very clear what object the new word matches.
If you feel like your early reader would benefit from a visual aid, make adding a small picture part of the fun! Your child could draw the object on the label, you could print out a small picture of the object to attach, or you could even find a picture of the object in a magazine to cut out and add!
Creating your own labels at home is easy and would be a great activity to do with your kids! Go room by room, name the things that you see in the second language, use print to write out the name clearly on a white index card or other white paper, and attach it to the object where it can be seen. I recommend black and white and simple, bold text to make the labels clear and easy to read. Write the name only in the second language, or in both languages.
There are over 80 labels in all, PLUS a set of blank labels to make your own. They are 2 inch by 3.5 inch rectangles and include both the English and the Spanish words for the object. In this way, parents who don’t speak the second language can use them without looking up each word. And kids can practice whichever language they need – this activity is great for English or Spanish language learners.