Language Development

Language skills should begin to be developed when children are very young, in fact, before they even begin to speak. Parents can play an important role in their child's language development by simply talking to their child. Children imitate what they hear and what they see. They learn language by listening to it and trying it out for themselves.

Parents can model language for their child by naming objects and using descriptive words. Be sure to motivate your child by displaying lots of energy and animated interjections when you speak. Repeat what your child says and expand upon his utterances, adding more information to his sentences. Ask your child open-ended questions that require more than a one word response. Most important, always answer when your child speaks to you!

Make yourself available throughout the day to engage in conversations with your child. Weave casual conversations into daily activities by narrating all that is happening throughout the day. Tell a child the reasons for doing things. Speak slowly, clearly, and in simple sentences. Vary the expression in your voice. Be enthusiastic, attentive, and willing to chat about any topic that your child chooses.

Books are a wonderful springboard for language activities. Read to your child and have your child "read" to you. Act out favorite storybooks. Read rhyming stories and stories with predictable patterns so that your child can chime in.

Have fun with language! Make up rhymes, jingles, and silly sayings. Sing favorite songs together. Use matching and sorting games to talk about how things are the same or different. Play make believe with puppets, toy phones, or other props.

Be sure to avoid behaviors that discourage children from wanting to engage in conversation. Avoid asking asking questions with yes-no answers and questions that test a child's knowledge. These questions put the child on the spot and can make him feel uncomfortable that he may not be able to give the "right" answer. Remember, too, that it is important to avoid interrupting your child when he talks.

Enjoy your role as a language facilitator for your child. Parents who make efforts to bathe their young child in language throughout the day are eventually rewarded with a child who chatters freely and easily and who has a strong foundation upon which to build other literacy skills.