Tips & Tricks For Parents

Use Junk Mail as a Language Activity With Your Child

Reading is an essential way to build language skills, but it can be a challenge to find literacy activities that don’t always involve a book. Yet, in our everyday lives, we are surrounded by text and language. You can use all these extra resources when planning a language activity with your child.

Junk mail is the advertising material we often receive in our mailboxes. It can be loose items in magazines and newspapers or flyers that are handed out in the street. They cover a wide variety of subjects and writing styles, which can make them very useful for building language skills with your child. Here are some suggestions for how to use these to promote language skills at home:

    • Use catalogs or flyers from grocery stores to create your own personalized shopping lists. This allows you to include language about categories (fruits, vegetables, dried goods, meats, cleaning products), quantity (particularly with loose items like fruit and vegetables) and temperature (which items will be in the freezer, refrigerator etc).Sit down with catalogues, glue, scissors and a pen and ask your child to find the objects you need in the catalogues. Remember to do this through listening first—say the object, wait for your child to process the request and find the item, and help them find it if they don’t understand. If you already have some of that item at home, show it to them and help them match the name with the object. When you locate the item, cut it out and glue it onto your shopping list. Include information about how many items of each you need. Once you go shopping, use the list to talk more about the categories, quantity and storage locations. Do the same when unpacking the groceries at home.
    • Use catalogs from toy and book stores to talk about what you like and don’t like. This is an important concept for children to understand as many children with hearing loss may believe everyone likes the same things they do. Ask the child what they like in the catalog and wait for their reaction. They should either point to the toy or say its name. If they don’t say the name, talk about it: “Oh you like the crying doll? She is lovely. I wonder why she is crying?” Help them match the language to the object. Then talk about items you like through listening first—say the name of the toy and wait for them to find it. If they don’t know the item, find it and talk about it together. Then identify something you don’t like and explain why you don’t like it (too messy, too loud, wrong color). Ask your child what object they don’t like. This may take time, but it will help your child learn the concept and help you with future gift buying!
    • Use flyers about events and festivals to teach the language related to the events. For example, if the circus is coming to town, find books and pictures about the circus to teach more language. If you don’t have books and pictures, can you draw some? Talk about the sights, smells and experiences for that event? Help your child to learn all the language prior to attending so they have the words to describe what they want to see, and tell other people about it afterwards.
    • Collect all the catalogs you receive and use them to talk about color, size, thickness (if it is a booklet) and single pages, the category the flyer falls into (groceries, hardware, toys and books, event flyers). You are only limited by your imagination and the quality of your junk mail!

    If you don’t receive junk mail, go out and find it! Many grocery stores and shops have flyers and catalogs available at the checkout, so make a mental note to collect them wherever you go. Do you have more good ideas for how you could use junk mail? We’d love to hear them!



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