What are the day to day ways that you can help your little one learn language skills? Here are some ideas courtesy of Felice St. John on ways you can make early language development all apart of your daily routine!
When we are teaching our little ones to walk, we encourage and guide them by cheering them on, holding their hands as they practice, and setting up safe places for them to cruise around the room. As they watch us every day and practice these “baby steps” (literally), one day they get the hang of it, and off they go. Scooting, cruising and crawling become walking and running before we know it.
So how do we teach our babies how to talk? Simply put, we have to talk to them! We know that our babies are too little to talk to us (at least with words), so it may feel strange to talk to them knowing that they will not talk back. However, research shows that when parents and caregivers talk to their babies, they will develop stronger language and communications skills.
And if we take it a step further, consider the benefit of having a child who can communicate to us with words. It will help to lessen their frustrations as they grow because they will be able to tell us more about what they need and want instead of melting down because they do not have the words to tell us.
So perhaps instead of falling apart because she wanted to color with the red crayon, your daughter may have the words to say, “red crayon please!” because you have given her the language skills by repeating and modeling each day.
So what does this look like on a day-to-day basis? And where do we start?
We can start by simply narrating everything we see and do. “Look at the dog. It’s fur is soft. Touch the puppy.” or “Mama is pouring coffee into the cup. The coffee is hot.” or “We are buying apples. The apples are red!” This may feel silly, but your little one’s brain is absorbing all of these words and sounds. You can think of it as being a sportscaster as you announce the “play-by-play” of your child’s life.
Sing! Singing is an excellent way to build language skills, and it can be fun too! You can sing some classics like the ABCs and Old MacDonald, or you can make up your own songs as your dressing your baby, making dinner or driving in the car–bonus points if you can make your song rhyme! “We are driving in the car…we are going very far…look up and see the star!”
Read to your children every day. This can be very simple and done for even a few minutes a day to start. Point out pictures as your baby sits on your lap. Make sure to choose a time when your little one is alert, and if he is squirmy, try again later. Reading to children is linked to their being better prepared for school and greater achievement over the long term.
Give your child words. If you’ve ever tried to learn a different language, you know that one of the building blocks is vocabulary. So in the same way, as you name objects for your baby or toddler, you are giving them a vocabulary so they can they can then learn and use those words. If they are cooing, grunting or pointing, give them words. “Yes, you see the door.” “You pointed to the car. Here is your toy car.” “Daddy is putting on your shoes. This is your coat. Open the door.” You can also name their emotions as they babble or grunt. “You feel happy.” “I can see you are feeling sleepy.”
In the long run, you little one will also have the words to tell you how he’s feeling. This again, can help to limit frustrations and meltdowns as your child grows.
Make eye contact Just like communicating with adults is more valuable and effective when we use eye contact, it is also beneficial with children. Researchers at the University of Cambridge say that when you make eye contact with a baby, you sync their brainwaves to yours. This could boost their learning and communication skills overtime.
Childrens’ brains develop 90% in the first five years of life. There is an immense amount of learning going on, and they are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. The learning that takes place in these early years of life is incredible, from walking and talking and everything in between.
So remember to have fun with your little people–talk, sing, narrate, read and make eye contact with them everyday! And, soon enough, the babbling, cooing, pointing and grunting will turn into words and sentences. And you’ll have the gift of connecting with your child through conversation for years to come.