What parent hasn’t questioned their child’s early language development? We are always looking at other kids to benchmark our child’s growth. It’s normal and we all do it! As a principal of a K-2 school, a child’s limited vocabulary seemed to be one of a parents’ biggest worries when entering school.
Studies conducted on the importance of vocabulary development certainly helps to heighten our worries. Research such as:
- a child’s vocabulary growth is directly linked to his or her overall school achievement 
- the size of a child’s vocabulary in kindergarten predicts his ability to learn to read 
WOW, that’s worrisome! However, I, like many other parents didn’t know about the research when my kids were young, and yet my adult children can talk. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and I all worried about their speech. We got through it by supporting each other by sharing ideas and using common sense. And yes, there was more than one of us who soon thought their child talked too much!
Early Language Development: Top 3 Strategies
From talking and singing to playing and reading, there are a variety of ways you can nourish early language development in infants and toddlers. Helping children remember the meanings of words and discover the meaning of new words is an important component in early literacy.
- Talk, Talk, Talk. Yes, it is important to encourage children’s vocabulary development so that they develop the language and literacy skills necessary to succeed in school. However, through everyday conversations and interactions, children can learn unfamiliar words. Use lots of examples and use different more creative words as they get older. Be sure to repeat the words many times in different situations. Usually, children will understand the word before they can say it or use it in conversation.
- The key to support your child’s speech and language development is in building language during every day activities. Verbalize what you are doing and try to engage her in conversation about your activities. A short walk outside will introduce your child to many new words along the route. Look for new words through your child’s eyes. A good strategy to introduce words is by finding new words through your child’s eyes. What does he see, hear, smell or touch along the path? Keep the tasting to lunch or a snack when you get home!
- Engage your child in conversation rather than a “rapid fire” vocabulary activity. Talk about what you have done, doing and are going to do in the future. Follow their lead and don’t “push conversations” when kids are not interested. Slow down and let their talking begin!
Three more early language development activities
- Sing and say nursery rhymes with toddlers. Be animated with your voice and actions when singing and saying nursery rhymes. Children will love the actions and it will help them repeat and remember some new words. Prepare yourself to read stories and nursery rhymes many times and perform multiple encores of songs.
- Although you may not completely understand everything your toddler says, smile and nod to encourage her to continue talking. Try repeating what he/she says and add some more words for clarification or details.
- Make games out of picture flash cards to reinforce words. Play hide and seek, find the cat card, turn over the apple, what animal barks. Be silly and have fun!
Reading books helps expand vocabulary
- After reading the book, incorporate more open-ended questions into your conversations. This moves your child from naming things/characters in the book to thinking and talking about the story. Ex. why do you think the color of the house is blue??
- When reading books be descriptive about the language in the book. Discuss the color of the grass or the size of the giraffe. Although you may read the book multiple times, your conversations can be different.
- While you are reading, encourage your child to repeat a word for phrase from the book. Sprinkle in “what” questions and add more words.
Expanding your toddler’s vocabulary is all about exposure and fun. Parents are their child’s first teacher and play a major role in helping their child develop language skills. Start small by setting a simple goal to “language it up” at least one time each day. The bottom line is that by talking, reading, singing and playing with your child, you will see significant growth in their language development. Sit back and enjoy the journey.
- Weitzman, E. & Greenberg, J. (2010). ABC and Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings. The Hanen Centre: Toronto.
- Rowe, M. (2012). A Longitudinal Investigation of the Role of Quantity and Quality of Child-Directed Speech in Vocabulary Development. Child Development: 83(5), 1762-1774.
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