Language development is highly linked to future academic achievement in children. Your child’s ability to communicate and express themselves is integral to moving through life. Naturally, you’ll want to do everything you can to promote proper growth in those first few years. As with most areas of child development, exposure is key. Consider the following tips to create a language-rich environment at home.
- Communicate with your child - You can do this even before your toddler starts talking in complete sentences. Make eye contact and use facial expressions and body language. Exaggerate intonation. Pretend to have a conversation where you speak and your little one says a word or two or even when they babble.
- Speak clearly - Once your child is older, transition away from baby talk and speak clearly. Make sure you are modeling good speech. It’s ok to have little pet names or silly family words and phrases, but be sure to use the proper words, as well. Baby talk tends to start naturally winding down at around 15 months of age.
- Extend what they are saying - If your child is using single words, reinforce that by taking what they’ve said and using it in a sentence. For example, if they say “mama,” you say, “Yes, mama is cooking dinner right now.” If your child is making simple sentences like, “I want toy,” you can respond with, “Ok, what toy do you want? Do you want your favorite bear toy?”
- Read - Do this as early as you can. Reading helps in so many ways, but it especially helps with vocabulary exposure. Talk about what you see in the book. Describe the illustrations, make predictions before you turn the page. Read their favorite books over and over. Children love repetition and it helps reinforce what they’ve learned.
- Use music - Music is a powerful learning tool. It promotes listening skills, which is an essential part of language development. Singing along to songs with rhyming words, (like “Do Your Ears Hang Low” with Storypod’s Manu Monkey,) will teach your child to hear patterns and have fun with words. Just like reading, repetition is important and welcomed by your little one.
- Play word-centric games - Children learn best when they’re having fun. Games like “Simon Says” and “I Spy” promote careful listening, encourage observation, and require the use of specific vocabulary.
- Narrate the world around you - Expose your child to language by describing the things you are doing in real time. Use varied and specific vocabulary. Observe the world around you and say things like, “Do you see the roses? Here are the sunflowers,” instead of just saying, “Look at the flowers.”
Promoting language development in young children doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Just be present with your child and interact with them often. Make books and word exposure a priority and see how quickly your toddler blooms into a thriving, communicative child!