Early language learning begins way before your child says his first word.
In fact, the nonverbal exchanges between infant and parent are the foundation of language; a crude communication system made up of gestures and sounds. Baby cries, parent responds. Parent smiles, baby coos.
These simple reciprocal acts establish an expectation for communication which is the foundation of language.
As baby grows, language becomes more sophisticated. Parents wait eagerly for baby’s first word, first sentence, and the first time baby is able to understand and follow directions. Nothing seems more exciting to parents than those “My baby is so smart!” moments.
Early communication is important because it is the foundation of later communication, both verbal and written. Children with a strong grasp on language are more likely to develop into strong readers and writers. In addition, language is the preferred medium for academic instruction in most typical classrooms.
Children are taught primarily through verbal instruction, with other mediums, like visual aids, brought in as support. It follows that success in all subjects, especially literacy, hinge on a good command of language, and the ability to use and understand it.
If you are a parent reading this, you are probably wondering how you can give your child a figurative “leg up” to develop a good grasp of language. If your child is not speaking yet, please refer to my previous blog “Baby, Talk the Talk!”
If your child is verbal, and can put two words together, he is ready for the next stage in language development. At about the age of three, your child should:
- Possess a vocabulary of over fifty words
- Communicate in sentences
- Follow directions of two steps
- Answer open-ended questions (questions that require more than a simple yes/no response)
- Pair words with appropriate adjectives (red truck, little dog, noisy train)
- Tell the use of familiar objects
- Understand and describe events taking place, either in his environment or in a picture. This can be done with simple words, i.e. “baby crying”, “boy fall down” “Daddy home!”
You can support the development of your child’s skills within his daily routines. It is not necessary to make time to “tutor” or “remediate” your child in order to enhance his skills. The world is your child’s classroom, and you are his teacher. Every part of your daily routine is a teachable moment. Think about the skills you want your child to develop. Find a way to work those skills into your daily routines. The possibilities are endless, but just to give you an idea of what I mean, here are two simple examples.
STORYTIME: Point and label pictures for your child. Encourage imitation to expand vocabulary.
GROCERY SHOPPING: Allow your child to handle items as you place them into the cart. Use an adjective to describe how the item feels, looks, smells, or tastes. Most likely, your child will repeat the words after you while handling the item. For example, orange carrots, bumpy potato, yummy cookies, big cheese, etc.