Learning to understand and communicate effectively with others is one of the most important tasks for babies and young children to master. It’s also an incredibly complex feat! If you’re wondering how you can help your child to develop their language skills, here are 5 habits you can adopt to help encourage language development in early childhood.
1. Rhyme time
The rhythms and melodies in children’s nursery rhymes are easily memorable and lots of fun. Enjoy singing and reading with your child every day and you’ll soon build up a repertoire of favourites. At the same time, the stories and songs will help your child to explore their imagination and extend their vocabulary.
2. Take it in turns
If you’ve ever spent time watching or interacting with babies, you’ll notice that even without any formal words, they seem to instinctively understand how a conversation works. Language development in early childhood begins with these rudimentary exchanges, where a baby will listen to an adult’s words or noises, then interject with their own, babbling contribution.
So, always make sure you give your child the chance to take their turn in the conversation by leaving lots of gaps so that they can join in. Even if you can’t make out any words, the very process of ‘chatting’ like this will help your child to practice their talking and gain confidence in their interactions with others.
3. Repetition, repetition
Just like checking a mirror to make sure your tie is straight, listening back to the words you’ve said is a great way to verify correct language usage and boost confidence. Adults can help with this by repeating back a child’s sentence and modelling the correct language usage if they haven’t got it quite right. Adding extra words will also help to build up vocabulary and meaning. For example:
Child: We goed to the park
Adult: We goed to the park. Yes, we went to the park today to play on the swings.
4. Face to face
When we speak to each other, we don’t just use our voices. Our gestures and facial expressions really help to convey what we’re saying, and give lots of extra clues to the meaning of our words. By getting down to a child’s level and making eye contact when you speak, you can make it much easier for them to ‘read’ your face and really get engaged with your conversations.
5. Cut down on questions
To reduce pressure on your child, try to phrase your sentences as statements, rather than questions. So, instead of saying, “What colour is this toy car?” you can provide some background information for your child and then open up the conversation, for example: “This is the red car. I wonder where it’s going today.” Then follow your child’s cues. Another way to build up understanding is to commentate on what’s going on, for example, “The red car is driving to the shops. Now it’s stopped.”
Developing language skills at nursery
Here at Toad Hall Nurseries, our Early Language Programme is designed to promote language development in early childhood, turning our children into high quality speakers, attentive listeners and individuals who understand and enjoy what they are learning.
These skills create a firm foundation for our children and promote high quality thinking, which will lead to excellent early reading and writing skills.