Updated: Dec 7, 2019
A child begins to communicate with the world soon as he is born. From crying to get attention to babbling to forming words and then sentences, the journey is absolutely fascinating. As parents, we have a strong role to play in their communication journey. In fact a large part of the child’s language development comes from listening to others talk and then practicing to talk himself. Here are some things you can consciously do to help him in his journey:
Talk to the child – Ever so often we don’t talk with the child enough thinking that he will not understand what we say. The fact however is that the more we talk to the child, the more words he adds to his vocabulary. So if the child identifies his big blocks, you can add to vocabulary to say that these are red, big blocks. Talking to the child as you do various chores will continuously keep adding to his word bank. Don’t forget to tell him that he is having a bath with warm water, the next time you have the bathing ritual. Similarly giving words to the child’s feelings is yet another way not just to enhance his vocabulary but also help him recognize and deal with his feelings in later life. If the child is uphappy about his friend going away from the park, it will help to tell him that “you are sad because your friend has gone home, but he will come back tomorrow.”
While the way your child pronounces certain words may be heaven to your ears, do not imitate your child’s speech. Instead teach them the right words for each object. Besides talking to adults children also gain from interacting with other children their age so ensure you offer enough opportunity to interact with other children.
Do not interrupt the child – As the child starts to put together his thoughts into small, often times broken sentences, it is extremely tempting to stop and correct him in his tracks. Only by doing so often you are impairing his ability to learn. In fact speech experts point out that by interrupting the child we are interrupting their flow of thought, and the ability to express their thoughts in words. This in turn can also have an impact on their self-esteem especially as they grow older. Remember to allow them the necessary time, therefore to word their thoughts while also offering them your full attention. Do respond encouragingly when they are trying to communicate. Repetition is the best tool that can come to your aid. So confirming that “yes you want to play with the car”, when he makes an effort to tell you that, helps reinforce his learning. Using gestures along with words also goes a long way in this reinforcement.
Read – There isn’t a better way to enhance their vocabulary than to read to them. What this will also do is to create a lifelong love for the written word. You could also make up elaborate action stories and encourage the child to add to it. Allowing the child to retell a story will also be a good way to give free rein to his language skills.
Music – Music is another great way to teach them while having a whole lot of fun. So singing Old McDonald had a farm together, gives you a lot of opportunity to add new words and sounds to his ever-growing repertoire.
Games – Developing impromptu sound games on your own can be both a learning and fun opportunity. A simple ready, steady go game can be a good way to add to the child’s vocabulary. You heart will leap up with joy when after saying it a couple of times, the child will start to add the “go”, to your “ready, steady”. Toys are also a good prompt to add to the language skills. Building a tower while playing with blocks for example will be the right place to introduce the concept of tall and short or big and small. You could also indulge in a whole lot of pretend play where you play the fireman for example and douse the fire, teaching the child a whole lot of new words in the bargain. Toy animals can also act as a good prop for that pretend play exercise.
TV - While TV together may sound like a great option, TV may not do much to support the child’s language skills unless the child really knows the context of the conversation. That it adds to the strain on the child’s eye, is of course an added issue. It is important therefore that the child’s screen time be restricted. In fact children younger than 2 benefit from having zero exposure to screen time.
Excursions – Field trips such as ones to the zoo can help open up a whole lot of possibilities for the child. You can help the child learn the names of the many animals she spots. In fact an element of fun is very important in the process of teaching new words to the child. It will be a good idea therefore to follow the child’s interests. If animals fascinate the child, the zoo trip will have him in awe. If on the other hand vehicles are the child’s current craze, then a road trip will be in order.
In fact not just field trips you can turn every outing into an opportunity to develop the child’s language abilities. A trip to the super market, for example can also be a great opportunity to teach a whole lot of language skills. While at the park you could use teachable moments to talk to the child about the colours of flowers, their size, the activities children are doing and so on.
Amidst helping him learn to speak, remember that he is closely listening to you and absorbing each word you say. Therefore, avoid using any words that you would be embarrassed to hear your kids repeat. In fact make it a point to include please and thank you into your daily conversations. Sure enough they will soon find their way into your child’s vocabulary too.
Overall it will help to remember to make all language sessions fun. There will be enough and more teachable opportunities where the child thoroughly enjoys himself too. Before you know it, the child will have you in awe on account with how much he has picked up.