“When a child sees someone speak and hears his voice, there are two sensory draws – two simultaneous events both telling the child to pay attention to this single object of interest – this moment of human interaction. The result is that the infant is more focused, remembers the event, and learns more.” – NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
How To Help a Child Develop Language Skills
I read a lot about language development, I talk a lot about language development and I have experienced language development (my kids as opposed to me!). Over the years, here are a few pieces of advice I have carried with me. I hope you too find them helpful in your home.
With this list please keep in mind this quote I took to heart from Nutureshock:
“The central role of the parent is not to push massive amounts of language into the baby's ear; rather, the central role of the parent is to notice what's coming from the baby, and respond accordingly-coming from his mouth, his eyes, and his fingers.”
- LOOK at your child when you are speaking to them from day one. Seeing someone's face makes a big difference in acquiring language. Babies learn language beginning with reading lips. They discover when sounds begin and end by studying how a person's lips and mouth moves as he is speaking to him.
- DESCRIBE, like annoyingly so, from day one. Pretty soon the sound of your own voice will just about drive you crazy. Here is an example, “Oh, look at that bird flying high up in the blue sky above the trees with the green leaves.”
- RESPOND to your child even when they ask you the same question for the 30th time and even when your child is at the babble stage. Help him learn the art of conversation.
- REPEAT the question or statement that your child has said to you. Not only does it reinforce the vocabulary or concept, repeating is a great opportunity to correct what your child has said instead of saying, “no, that is not right. You should say “xyz” like this…” For example, “The trained felled off the table, mama!” My response, “oh my goodness, the train fell off the table. How did the train fall off the table?”
- POINT to everything you reference or your child references. Furthermore, if your child is looking at a fence and says something that sounds like “bottle”, for example, say “fence” not “bottle” even if that is the word it sounds like your child is saying…
- VERBALIZE your actions again to the point where you might 1) get funny looks (but who really cares about those stares) and 2) drive yourself insane at the sound of your voice. Yes, this approach is a bit annoying but it is effective. For example, “We're walking down the street to the park.” Also count stairs, snaps, you name it. A great opportunity for your child to learn basic concepts and, for me at least, get a little distracted from a diaper change which is not usually taken lightly.
- SOUND OUT letters and words, especially the first letter of a word. For example, say, ‘H-h-h-house'. This one might also drive you nuts. At first, I swear my toddler was mocking me but now at 2.5 years old he is beginning to take the same approach. Really beautiful to watch.
- MODEL READING & SURROUND your child with letters, words and books by creating a home library and spending time at libraries.
- CREATE an environment for reading and quiet time at your home may lead to more learning and better focus and stating the obvious but read, read, read to your child! Track the words from left to right as you read the sentences.
- ALLOW your child choose books to borrow from the library (no matter what). This will lead to more ownership of the process, and, hopefully, a sense of confidence and independence.
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