“N” is for Naming-The-World

You know it’s important to give your baby the names for things (like dog, cat, bath, water, ball etc), and that when they reach toddler-hood they literally demand the names for things… but you’re not to sure why this is so important and how much of a difference it can make to your child’s development.

Well, imagine you’re a traveller to a new, and foreign, city. You jump off the bus and you’re in the town square, surrounded by sounds, smells and sights that you’ve never experienced before. It’s quite overwhelming and you ideally need a native tour guide to help explain where you’re at and start exploring the city.

The tour guide explains where you are, gives you a history on the buildings around you, explains that the yummy smell coming from a nearby cafe is their local delicacy, and that the loud sounds in the background are from the trams passing by. And you slowly start to understand your surroundings and build pictures in your mind that will allow you to navigate your way easier.


Parenting is a similar concept. Your child will for many years experience absolutely new things each and every day, and without being told what these things are, your child will struggle to get their bearings. In a child’s development, language and intellect are closely linked. This means that knowing the words for things helps them to understand those things.

The more you encourage your baby to look at something and listen to it’s name or explain how it works, the better he’ll understand what he hears and sees and his intellectual development will follow suit.

A well known experiment demonstrates how this works:

Two groups of children, aged 13 – 31 months, were given the same task – to find a sweet hidden in one of two boxes (coloured green and red). The first group were left to find the box themselves and discovered that the red box contained the sweet. This took some trial and error and the children forgot from one day to the next that it was always the red box.


The second group of children were also left to find the sweet in the red box, but when they did find the correct red box the experimenters always said the word ‘red’. This group needed only 15 trials before they made the connection and consistently chose the red box first.

A week later both groups were brought back to see if they would remember which box held the sweet. The first group of children could not remember and had to be taught again, while the second group of children remembered immediately without any help. Simply saying a single word, ‘red’, while teaching them a week prior had helped these children to remember.

So, in your day to day life with your little one, don’t forget the importance and impact of naming things in his world. You can name body parts while bathing, or clothes while dressing. You can even name sounds or animals, toys and games, thoughts and feelings. The important thing to remember is that you’re your baby’s ‘tour guide’ in this new and exciting place called Life.

When playing the ‘Naming Game’, keep these tips in mind:

Use short sentences – five words or less is best. Instead of saying, “come let’s go and have a lovely hot bath”, rather say “we’re going to bath”. Imagine if you were learning a new language, the more words that are used that you don’t understand, the less likely you’ll be able to understand anything that’s being said. Keep it short and simple and your child will understand more.

Use the same phrases – when teaching your child words, it’s best to use the same phrases for things that you could describe in a multitude of ways (clean up, tidy up and put your things away all mean the same thing). Choose one way to describe something and always use it first – you can then elaborate to expand their language base, for example “Let’s tidy up. See, you put these toys in the basket.” and then “Let’s tidy up. See, you put your clothes in the wash basket.”

Repeat Key Words – It also helps to repeat your key word in two consecutive sentences. For example, you can say “There is the cat. Let’s stroke the cat“, or “Let’s go bath. Do you like to bath?”.

Use hand movements – it helps to throw in some hand movements as well to illustrate the words. For example, you can rub your hands together and say ,”Let’s wash our hands” or you can gesture and touch your lap and say “Come sit on mommy’s lap.”


Words: Loren Stow

when we know better… we do better

*Practica Parents: Remember when you use the programme to not only focus on the toys and the apparatus in the toy box, but also give attention to the activities in the guide. Because there are activities that do not involve toys that are so important to learn and use.

If you would like to receive email updates when the blog is updated, please email lizette@practicaprogramme.co.za

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