Learn to Compare and Contrast

Brain development is at its fastest in children from 0-6 years old. Unsurprisingly, this is also the age when many basic skills are learned and practiced. One of these basic skills is the ability to find similarities and differences between objects and things. This skill of comparing and contrasting is not only the basis of science, but also essential to the child’s language and mathematical developments.

In this post, we will discuss how developing the ability to compare and contrast will also help your child build their Chinese language skills.

Train Observational Skills

Whether our children are expanding their knowledge of the world in general or in an academic setting, the power of observation and its applications are vital.

When we teach children to recognise similarities and differences, we’re teaching them a type of inductive reasoning that allows them to discover patterns and logic. Inductive reasoning is when you draw a conclusion based on the observed evidence from your surroundings.

We can help our children develop the ability to compare and contrast easily in their daily lives through simple conversation. Things that seem obvious to us as adults may not be so to children due to their inexperience. By drawing their attention to such objects, we can slowly help them establish and increase their observation skills.

Increase Vocabulary and Comprehension

Children who are 2-3 years old experience an explosive expansion in their vocabulary. Through learning how to compare and contrast objects and things, they not only absorb new vocabulary, but also truly understand the meaning and definition.

For example, suppose you want to teach your child the difference between hot and cold. You could simply tell them the words and teach them that they’re opposites. However, what if you gave a bowl of ice cream to your child and at the same time a cup of warm water?

In that moment, they’ll directly experience and immediately differentiate between cold and warm. Not only will your child learn the definitions of hot and cold, they will also learn that they are opposites through their own tactile experience (which will help anchor the meanings in their memory).

It doesn’t take a big production of actively finding things for your child to observe. Simply look around your house. Choose any toy, object, or thing in your house and describe their shape, colour, and use. Then choose another object and compare the two together. See how many similarities your child can find between a spoon and a bowl or a book and a table.

Shoes are a perfect example because they are both similar and different. A pair of shoes are similar in the sense that they perform the same function, look alike in shape and design, but yet, are opposites because one is for the left foot and one is for the right foot and thus, are symmetrical.

Our daily lives are full of opportunities to grow and expand children’s vocabulary. Think of all the objects in your house that you can compare and contrast using the following pairs of descriptors:

long 長 short 短
light 輕 heavy 重
fast 快 slow 慢
cold 冷 warm 暖
bright 光亮 dark 黑暗
thin 薄 thick 厚
sharp 尖 blunt 鈍
wait 等 go 走

By adding to their Chinese vocabulary in this way, their ability to grasp ideas, comprehend literature, and future communication skills will improve.

Encourage Children to Form Questions

Once children discover differences, it’s natural for them to think, “Why?”

Children are endlessly curious and when we equip them with the vocabulary to describe their world, it is inevitable that they will want to know why things are the way they are. When we teach our children to analyze and study things, we’re also unofficially building a foundation of scientific inquiry. After all, science is about asking questions about how the world works and trying to find answers to them.

Using shoes as an example again, perhaps your child discovers that one pair is dirtier than the other. Ask them why they think that is. Or you can explain that it is possibly because one pair is worn more often and the other is not. Or perhaps one pair was worn in exceptionally dirty circumstances. If that is the case, what are possible scenarios where shoes would get dirty from one outing?

Or perhaps, you can compare two cats where one is big and the other one is small. Ask your child why they think the cats are different in size. Is it because one is older and the other is a kitten? Or perhaps one eats more than the other? Or perhaps one is an outside cat and gets more activity and has fewer regular feedings and the other is an inside cat who sleeps all day and has regular meals?

This type of investigative questioning is important to critical thinking, problem solving, and extrapolating possibilities from a given set of data.

Games and Activities

Another way we can improve our children’s discernment is through games and activities. There are plenty of activities you can find online and we will likely include some in a future post, but for now, here are a few words and sensations you can teach your child just from things in your house.

To teach words about taste, have your child try or taste foods that are sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, cold, or warm.To teach words about materials and sensory details, you can have them touch silk, fur, plastic, sand paper, different rocks, glass, wood, and other materials.

Hopefully, we have given you some inspiration on how you can expand your child’s Chinese vocabulary from your daily life. All of these words will be of great assistance as your child levels up their Chinese. There are few things as frustrating as not being able to describe your everyday life, and providing our children the means to do so is a gift.