Monday, January 31, 2011

Tip 12 - Play on Words

Try this word play game to build your child's vocabulary as well as the symbol centers of the left hemisphere and left temporal lobe structures that underlie good writing skills:

Double Meanings – ages 4-14 – Next car ride, make a game out of thinking of words that have more than one meaning like nurse (an RN ("she is a nurse") and drinking very slowly ("he nursed his drink") or think of as many meanings or expressions as you can using common everyday words – for example, chain (daisy chain, chain gang, chain link fence, silver chain, chain of command), call (house call, bird call, calling card, roll call),tree (e.g. tree house, shoe tree, family tree, money tree, tree of life), house (e.g. houseboat, household, housewife, house of cards, full house, birdhouse), foot (hot foot, foot loose, foot long), bird (bird brain, eat like a bird, bird song), horse (horse around, Charlie horse) , monkey (grease monkey, monkey see monkey do, monkey around) ,dish (soap dish, dish soap, dish it out, dish it up, she’s a dish), seat (hot seat, Congressional seat), soap (soap opera, soap suds).

Younger children (under six years) may find it easiest to try thinking of two meanings of any common word. But older children (seven to ten) can try to think of expressions or idioms using common words, like book (book end, bookish, book a trip, Good Book, bookkeeper). By middle school children can make up “punny” jokes.


Wordplay creates a sense of the magic of words. It helps children understand that words are symbols, and since symbols are flexible, word play builds brains that are creative and open to new ways of thinking.  Most parents are well aware of how words we used when we were young have very different meanings today, because as the world changes so does the meaning of common words. Think how different the meaning of word ‘web’ is today from when you were young, or how about“tweet” and “network”.

Understanding that words can have more than one meaning and meanings change over time, fosters good speaking, writing and composition skills. When words are used in unique, clever ways we call that a “play on words.”  Learning new meanings of words builds vocabulary skills, strengthens the advanced symbol networks of the brain in the left hemisphere and enables children to be creative wordsmiths. With more and more emphasis on essays in college entrance examinations, starting early to build your child’s comfort with and enjoyment of words will provide an advantage at every grade.

Step 12 – Play on words builds the vocabulary skills that improve writing and composition

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