One of the biggest milestones in the life of your infant or toddler is the development of language skills. This is a necessary foundation for later learning, because almost all learning and teaching takes place through language.
Mastery of language skills and a strong vocabulary are what will help your child succeed in preschool and beyond. The stronger your child’s language skills are, the more they are set for success in school.
Language skills are both expressive (talking, describing) and receptive (listening, following directions). Your child uses language skills to do any of the following tasks.
- Come when called
- Retrieve objects on request “Get your shoes.”
- Identify objects receptively “Point to the cat”.
- Identify objects expressively “Cat!”
- Follow simple instructions “Put your napkin in the trash”
- Communicate needs and wants “More juice.”
If your child struggles with any of the above tasks, s/he is demonstrating difficulty with language.
If your child spends his day at home with you, you are in a good position to help them with language mastery and give them a boost that will ensure school success. The reason this is so important is that once your child is in a school setting, s/he will be expected to understand basic language, to follow a variety of instructions, and interact expressively with teachers and peers.
The best way to help language learner’s master language is the 3 R’s: REAL, REPETITIVE, and REWARDING.
REAL– Use real life experiences to teach your child to understand and use new words. Play time, cooking, eating meals, taking walks, are all real experiences that are ideal learning times for your child.
REPETITIVE– The more times your child repeats something, the more embedded it becomes in his memory, until he has achieved mastery of the word and concept.
REWARDING– When your child sees that language is a means to an end, s/he is motivated to learn, imitate, and repeat.
Here is a small scenario to illustrate how one parent used the 3 R’s to help her child master the word “leaf”.
Sandra took her 2-year old daughter, Emily, for an autumn walk (real). There were many leaves on the sidewalk and Emily held one up to show her mother. Sandra took the leaf from her hand and said “leaf”. Then she smiled and pointed to the sidewalk. “Can you find another leaf?”
Emily just stood there, unsure what to do. Sandra took her hand and pointed to another leaf. “Leaf!” she said. (repetitive). “Now you try it.” She let go of Emily’s hand. “Find another leaf.” (repetitive). Emily looked on the sidewalk and found another leaf. “Good job!” Sandra hugged her. (rewarding) “You found a leaf!” (repetitive).
This kind of instruction is simple, but very effective, and a good parent can work it into every part of the day. During breakfast you can teach “milk” and “pour”. At lunch you can review these words again. Outdoors at the park you can teach your child “up” and “down”. At bedtime you can teach “light” and “dark”.
The possibilities are endless, and the formula is like magic. Try it! Let me know how it goes. : – )