While language acquisition is a normal part of child development, it is not always easy to determine whether children are on track when it comes to reaching milestones in this area. Parents may worry that their children are falling behind as compared with their peers. This can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. However, language development varies greatly among children, which is why parents need to remember that what they consider to be “average” when it comes to language skills development may actually be relatively advanced when compared with other children.
In this article we will discuss eight tips that can help parents enrich their children’s language development. By following these simple steps, you can gain a better understanding of how your child’s communication skills are developing, and help your little one improve those skills as needed.
1. Read to children from an early age
One of the most effective ways to encourage young children’s language development is through reading. If possible, parents should read to their kids daily starting from birth. You can even begin reading to children while they are still in the womb! Research suggests that babies may be able to recognize familiar voices and sounds heard from inside the womb.
Reading language-rich stories from a young age exposes children to a variety of concepts including vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Reading to kids also aids in the development of emerging language skills. These include phonological awareness (the ability to understand that words are made up of distinct sounds), print motivation (how much they enjoy being read books), word knowledge (vocabulary), story comprehension, and language production (the ability to produce language, including speaking and writing).
2. Practice language skills during playtime
Another way parents can help to boost their children’s language development is by engaging verbally during playtime. By playing with your kids each day, you expose them to various aspects of language, which in turn will help them acquire the skills they need over time.
Parents should be active participants during play by asking questions that require children to give explanations or tell a story. For example, you might ask your child, “What is your doll doing?” or, “What is this called?” These are great conversation starters that can get kids talking. Parents can also use play as an opportunity to teach children new language concepts, such as colors or numbers.
3. Enrich your child’s environment
Children are continuously surrounded by all kinds of language-related objects and activities. Therefore, parents need to be aware of the ways in which these things can influence the development and acquisition of children’s language. Some ways in which you can enrich your child’s environment include:
- Watching educational programs on TV
- Reading books that contain simple sentences
- Talking to your child about the events of the day
- Starting each day with a conversation to help children prepare for the day
- Asking open-ended questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer
4. Learn about childhood language development
The rate at which each child’s language skills develop will vary highly.Parents need to remember that it can take years for each child’s language skills to fully develop which means that while some children may speak clearly as early as three years old, others may not begin speaking well until they are closer to four or five years of age. It is also normal for language skills (like vocabulary and sentence structure) to develop unevenly.
For example, one child may be able to form complex sentences, but has little knowledge of vocabulary. In contrast, another child may talk about a wide range of topics, but struggles with formulating sentences properly.
Oftentimes, parents don’t need to be worried if their children’s language skills appear to be lagging as compared with their peers. Your little one may just need a bit more time to catch up. However, if your child shows little to no progress in language development by age three or four, it is advised to seek help from a professional language specialist, as there could be an underlying language issue that needs to be addressed.
5. Provide language-rich toy options
Children love toys of all kinds. However, the best types of toys for enriching language development are those that encourage the use of language through play. Some examples of these types of toys include:
- Reading and storybook dolls
- Puppets that invite children to answer questions or give explanations in order to play with them
- Puppets that ask simple questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer
- Blocks with letters printed on them so children can build words
- Magnetic language games
Parents play a significant role when it comes to supporting children’s language skills development. By practicing and encouraging the use of language at home regularly, parents can better prepare their little ones to acquire skills that will help them in school and in life.
At Early Childhood University, we offer a world-class curriculum that will prepare your child for success in school and beyond. Contact us to learn more!