“Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey was one of the first books that we read when we started following Before Five in a Row two years ago. It is about Sal, a little girl who goes blueberry-picking with her mother. As her mother picks the succulent fruit to be canned, Sal munches her way through the bushes. On the other side of the hill, a baby bear is also eating blueberries with its mother to prepare for winter. Confusion between the two pairs ensues, but the two babies soon find their way back to their own mothers.
With this charming premise, we learned about bears, talked about staying with Mama or Papa at all times when out and about, and most importantly, we learned how to kerplink-kerplank,to listen to sounds that words make.
Kerplink-kerplankis the sound that Sal’s blueberries make when she drops each one in her tin pail. It is what made the book really memorable for Little T, and recently for Little Sir (formerly known as Baby Boy) too. We drop some beads, coins, shells into our little pails and go kerplink-kerplank.
From the Five in a Row lessons for The Glorious Flight and Down, Down The Mountain, we learned that a word that sounds like what is being described is called onomatopoeia. Think swoosh, chirp-chirp, knock-knock, splash, baa-baa, squeak, tick-tock, creak!
If I remember right, I learned about onomatopoeia and other literary devices in fourth grade. But preschoolers enjoy it more and can definitely be taught about it! Children are naturally drawn to onomatopoeic words as these are musical, descriptive, and recognizable in their daily life.
Exposing children to and making them aware of onomatopoeia help in vocal or language development, improve listening skills, and boost imagination. It makes reading fun, exciting, and “happening.”
So how do we kerplink-kerplank or make onomatopoeia a part of our children’s lives?
Read onomatopoeia books
Children enjoy hearing stories that have a lot of sounds, that’s why Dr. Seuss books are such big hits. With “Mr. Brown Can Moo”, you can moo, bzzz, bam bam bam. In The Little Golden Book “I Can Fly,” you can pop, pop, pop like a rabbit and crunch crunch crunch as you eat your lunch.
Our other favorites are Jonathan London’s Froggy books, in which Froggy goes flop, flop, flop as he walks, and bumps his head with a, well, bump!
Children will immediately recognize onomatopoeia once you point it out to them. It’s even better when you demonstrate it, such as when you actually knock while saying knock-knock, or you bounce as you say bump! Reading, saying, and doing, engage more than one of your child’s senses, making it more memorable for him.
Make up your own sounds
Let the fun begin! Look around you and choose an object for which you will make a sound. A fan can whiiir whiiir whiiir, the faucet can drip drip drip, and the light switch can click! This exercise will make your child more mindful of the sounds around him, and will fire up his imagination.
It’s never too early to teach your preschooler how to kerplink-kerplank. Using onomatopoeia in their writing, which is the objective of teaching it in the grades level, will be for the future. But for now, listening and imitating are the key to a fun and engaging reading time!