How to Foster Language Development
Every child develops at his own pace; however, there are certain language milestones to watch for. For example, many children begin to form short, simple sentences by the time they turn two years old. You can help foster your child’s language development by using some simple communication techniques.
Communication with Infants
Infants typically begin producing simple sounds by the time they are six months old. You will likely hear him make gurgling noises and sounds like “ba ba ba.” Reward your child’s efforts by repeating these sounds to him, ideally in a manner in which he can see your mouth move.
In addition to repeating your child’s simple sounds, carry on one-way conversations with him. Every time you bathe him, change his diapers, feed him, and do other activities, describe what you are doing. For example, say “Let’s bathe your tummy” or “You must be hungry.”
Movement and Action Language
Use language that describes your child’s movements and actions. For example, say “Let’s walk over to the table” or “You stood up all by yourself.” This helps your child connect the words to the physical action. Describe the actions that you take, in addition to your child’s actions. For example, say “Now Mommy is going to tie her shoes” or “Daddy is chopping up carrots to make a salad.”
Talking with your child constantly helps encourage his language development. Discuss playtime activities and other things that you do with your child. Turn family vacations into learning time. For example, if you take your child to a beach or to a water park, talk about how cold the water is. Create games that emphasize learning. Ask your child to select the red crayon, the largest truck, and so on so that he learns to identify descriptive terms with the correct item.
As your child begins to form simple sounds and words, give him plenty of time to explore his own capabilities. Wait for him to finish speaking; avoid finishing his words or sentences. Instead, expand on what he says after he finishes speaking. For example, he might say “kitty.” Expand on his word by saying “Yes, the kitty ran out of the room” or “The kitty is very pretty.” If he says “truck,” you might say “You want the toy truck.”
Make eye contact with your child as you speak Do the same while he is talking. Always answer what he says and use gestures to supplement your language. Ask your child plenty of questions to encourage him to talk, but do not attempt to force him to speak. Provide a model of proper speech instead of correcting his speech. For example, if your child says “Me hungry,” say “I am hungry, too.”
Reading with Your Child
Read books aloud with your child every day. As your child grows older, encourage him to become more engaged in reading by having him select his own age-appropriate books from the library. If your child begins to lose interest in a book, sing the text and encourage him to join in. You can also make up your own stories about the pictures in the book and encourage your child to do the same.