Stimulating Language Development
Most children begin to speak around the age of 10 to 18 months. However, their understanding of words starts long before that. Hearing word sounds stimulates children’s brains to grow so that they can remember and repeat these sounds. Children also begin to understand the rhythms and patterns of speech.
As children listen, watch and participate in the world around them, they begin to master language. Their experiences in child care are an important part of language development. An interesting, enriched environment makes a difference. There are many things you can do to help children build a solid foundation for a lifetime of self expression.
Meet the Match Developmentally
Pay attention to where children are developmentally and move forward as they do, using more complicated language as they are ready for it. Repeat and match words and sounds from the child. Always answer children’s questions patiently and fully.
Tie Words to Actions
Self-talk. Describe what you are doing and how you are doing it, including new words and ideas. “I am using my hands to mix the color violet into the playdough.”
Parallel talk. Describe the child’s actions as she does them. “You’re pulling the long train down the windy track.”
Imitation. Encourage children to imitate your words or phrases if they want to.
Expanding. Expand on things children say. For example, if a child says “kitty nice,” you could follow with, “Yes, the kitty is soft and gray.”
Prompting. If a child doesn’t answer a question, change your question. For example, if you said, “Where did you go?” you could restate it as “You went where?”
Make Language Clear
Use simple, clear speech and speak to children directly. Make eye contact, and give them time to respond. Be very specific when you give directions, such as “Put these crayons with the other crayons on the green shelf.”
Describe and Label
Introduce new words in a meaningful way, such as talking about what you are seeing and doing. Have children describe and label things, encouraging them to make connections themselves. For example, have them taste sugar and salt and then have them describe the differences. Use real objects to teach new words, and let children feel the object when you name it.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.
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