Going on holidays and traveling by plane is an exciting experience for the whole family, especially young children. But it’s also a great opportunity to grow your child’s vocabulary, listening, and communication skills.
Here’s how you can combine your next trip to the airport with a useful learning experience for your child.
Before You Travel
Before your travel day, talk to your child about your journey, your destination, and what you expect to see and do during your holiday. Use photos or drawings to help your child to understand any new vocabulary.
- Talk about who you are going to see. For example, if you are going to visit extended family, show your child photos of them. Talk to your child about the family members you are going to see, when you saw them last, and what you did. Chat about past experiences and future plans rather than using “here and now” language. This way you help your child to make connections about past experiences and relate them to present and future actions.
- Use mental state verbs such as think, remember, guess, pretend and imagine while talking about your upcoming trip. This will help your child understand these words. For example, you could say “We are going to spend time with grandma and grandpa. I think they have planned a surprise for us. They want to take us to a lake in the mountains. Do you remember what we did last time we visited them?”.
- Encourage your child to think about what they’ll need for the trip. While you are packing, encourage your child to find the items they’ll need to include. If your child is unsure, give descriptions or clues to help them. For example, “You will need something for walking outside (shoes), and you will need something to brush your teeth. You can find it in the bathroom.”
- Let your child choose some of the clothes, shoes, and toys they wish to take. Give choices for your child to listen and respond to, e.g. “Do you want to take your red sandals or blue sandals?”. Use mental state verbs while packing to help your child understand that people have different likes and dislikes. For example, “I know you like your stuffed dog, I think we should pack it!”. “My favorite T-shirt is the red one with the cat print, but I know that your favorite is the blue one with stripes. Which one would you like to pack?”
- If it is your child’s first experience traveling by plane, begin to teach flight and airport-related vocabulary before you get there, such as pilot, flight attendant, check in, security check, luggage, boarding, passengers. For example you could say “The pilot is the one flying the plane and the flight attendant looks after the passengers and serves us snacks, the passengers are the people like us who are traveling.” You can also prepare your child for what happens at the airport, such as checking in, lining up, security. Use pictures or an experience book to support their understanding.
At The Airport
- Explain to your child what you are going to do at the airport so that they know what to expect: “First we are going to the check-in desk, then we will go through the security check.” Let your child know that they may have to remove their processor at security by saying something like: “We need to let the person at security know that you are wearing a cochlear implant. You may need to take off your processor/s for a minute. Then we will wait at the gate to board the plane.”
- Talk to your child in detail about each step. For example, “At the check-in desk we get our boarding passes and we will leave our suitcases. Do you want to pull your suitcase to the check-in desk?” or “Ohh look, we get seats right at the front of the plane. It says seat 4A and 4B”.
- Repeat any new words and encourage your child to use them. For example, while waiting for security, talk to your child again about what you need to do: “We need to take our jackets off and put everything in the basket; we are not allowed to take liquids so we need to drink the water”. Repeat any new words and use acoustic highlighting to help your child attach meaning to them like this “We need to let the person at security know that you are wearing a cochlear implant”.
- If it is not your child’s first time traveling by plane, use the opportunity to talk about your past experiences at the airport and reinforce vocabulary: “Do you remember where we travelled last time?”. Recall together what you need to do when you arrive at the airport: “Do you remember what we have to do first? Yes, we need to get our boarding passes and leave our luggage, what do we do next?”.
- Use varied vocabulary which is slightly above your child’s current language level whenever you have the opportunity. This way your child hears this new vocabulary over and over again. The more your child hears new words, the more chances they have to understand and know how to use them.
Want more tips about flying with your child? Here are some games you can play while on the plane.
Not sure what to pack? Take a look at our travel checklist.
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