It’s a scary fact that one in five children have some kind of language impairment*, leading to difficulty in self-expression and/or understanding what’s being said to them. Language development begins almost from birth, with babies developing much of the foundations that underpin their grasp of speech and language during the first 12 months of life. This continues, with the first three years being crucial as they develop these skills at an incredible rate.
This is why supporting language development is such a vital task, and there’s much that parents and caregivers can do in these crucial first years.
- Talk, talk and talk again: The most fundamental gift you can give your child is that of communication. Talk to your baby, right from the word go. He or she will soon start to respond, perhaps cooing back at you and making sounds. Treat this as a conversation – when they finish, you talk (or babble) again. Narrate the day: “Now we’re going to get you dressed”, “Time cuddle on the sofa” and so on…
- Explain – everything! No matter how young they might be, use vocabulary to explain what you’re doing, what you can see, hear, feel and more. The more you do this, the more their understanding will grow. Combine this with gestures, such as pointing, and facial expressions, to further help improve your child’s growing thirst for knowledge.
- Read – a lot! Books are pivotal to supporting language development. From the word go, sitting with your baby and reading out loud is creating the foundations they need for lifelong communication skills. Start with picture books that are age appropriate, graduating onto longer stories as the years pass.
- Experience the world with your child: Trips to places like the zoo, where you can point out animals, a walk in the countryside where you can show your little one trees, flowers, rivers etc. or a simple trip to the shops mentioning cars, buses and anything you see along the way is a wonderful way to further support their development and knowledge of words.
- Use the power of music: There’s a reason why we have so many children’s songs, and one of them is that it’s a great way to learn words and their meanings. So embrace those wheels on the bus and Old Macdonald’s animals, and enjoy this fun method of language learning.
- Follow your child’s lead: If they’re interested in something go with it. Learning, especially in the pre-school phase, shouldn’t be rigid. If your kiddie points at a flower, discuss it. If they seem to like cats, find more cat pictures. It’s all about interaction and that constant flow of words that their absorbent brain is soaking up every moment of every day.
One important factor is that of the TV. Whilst it seems like it might be a good medium to help with language skills, the issue with it is that it doesn’t respond or interact. Being that it’s these very mechanisms that are so crucial to language development means TV exposure should be kept to a minimum (and probably not at all for those under two years). It’s also a reason to stay away from computer games, as although these are interactive they don’t provide that much-needed response to a child’s communication efforts.
For anyone taking advantage of a childcare centre, it’s crucial to know that they too are continuing this much-needed support for language development.
Nido Early Schools pride themselves that all their members of staff having a wonderful ability to do just that. Not only are they trained and hold the highest levels of pre-school qualifications, the Nido difference is the passion that their employees have for the interactions they have with the children in their care. With multiple establishments in WA, SA, NSW, QLD and the ACT, there’s sure to be a centre near you. Find out more and discover your nearest location – https://nido.edu.au/.
About the author:
Danielle Innes has over 21 years of experience in Early Childhood Education and Care in South Australia. She has held managerial and leadership positions in the private and community sectors and also worked with children with additional rights as Education Supervisor of SA’s first Autism Specific Early Learning Centre. Danielle really enjoyed her recent position with the State Regulatory Authority, but felt a strong calling to return to childhood education and so joined Think Childcare Services in August 2019. She is also a wife and mum of three and balances work with a busy and active family life which includes sports, time outdoors and camping.