When a child says their first word, whether that word is ‘Mama’, ‘Papa’ or something else, it is a memorable moment. Children act like sponges, especially when they are still babies. They pick up various skills simply through observation and emulation.
However, when it comes to speaking and language skills, you can be more proactive in developing and nurturing your child. Below are some suggestions for how you might help develop your child’s language skills.
Talk and Respond
Speaking to your child is a form of stimulation as well as entertainment. You can tell your baby things as you do them, such as when you pick them up or feed them. Narrating your day helps to fill the quiet and expose your child to words.
Make sure that you look at your child when you speak. This indicates to them that they are your intended audience. At the same time, do not just prattle on. Give your child space to communicate back.
Babies will learn to coo and babble to you. This is the first step towards proper speech. You should respond to the sounds your child makes even if they do not make sense. Once they produce appropriate words, you can use those words in your response to help expand their vocabulary and understanding.
Read to Your Child
Besides merely speaking to your child, you should also establish a routine in which you read to them. You can start with board books or picture books. This will help to cement in their minds the various meanings of different words.
Colourful pictures can allow children to make connections easier. Meanwhile, using words in a story format exposes children to different contexts and uses of words, which further solidifies a child’s vocabulary. Additionally, reading proper stories gives children early exposure to grammar and syntax.
Surround with Words
It is impossible to speak to your child 24/7. You need some interaction with adults too. That said, your baby should not be restricted from having similar fun. Position your child where they can see other people speaking.
Whilst in their baby car seat during car journeys, your child is watching you speak with other passengers and will slowly mimic your behaviour. They are constantly learning.
You can also use music to help stimulate your child. Children’s songs and nursery rhymes are a great way to start as they can educate your child about the world around them.
While hearing conversation is a great way to nurture your child’s language skills, you should not allow them to watch television or use computers, especially if they are below two years old. Even children above two years should be exposed to no more than two hours of TV time a day.
Programmes and computer games do not interact or adequately respond to children and their ideas. As such, they should learn with the help of other people instead of electronics.
Expose Them to New Experiences
Putting your child in a new environment promotes their curiosity and helps them learn. You can take your child out for a field trip to the park or the zoo and surround them with new experiences. This also grants you the opportunity to introduce them to new words. A positive experience can easily translate to encouraging their learning.
As your child slowly picks up new words and starts to use them, remember that they are prone to making mistakes. When they do, do not criticise or punish them. If they mispronounce a word, repeat it to them in the correct manner. Use these words in different situations and contexts to help them fully grasp the word and its meaning.
Learn about Language Development
It is a great idea to get to know more about language development and the milestones your child will reach. Children are always trying to communicate with you, but you might not know it. By learning the ways they communicate, according to their age, you can respond to them appropriately.
For example, cooing, laughing and waving are usual for babies between three to 12 months. Knowing these milestones will also help you identify if something is wrong. That said, if your child fails to meet specific benchmarks, you may want to consult a speech pathologist to alleviate your concerns.