Language Development - Part One
Author: Lara Date Posted: 7 October 2016
When does language begin to develop as a child?
As a toddler?
Nope, language recognition and development begins before they are even born - right from when your child first hears your voice.
Pretty amazing, hey!
As parents, we have a huge impact on the language development of our children and while this might seem like a huge responsibility, it doesn’t involve us doing anything particularly academic or scientific. There are no particular qualifications or special tools required to give your child the best start in the language department. Just you and a few simple techniques.
Image credit: www.parentcentre.org.nz
Babies actually begin to communicate with their parents and others around them quite early. Their first form of communication is often crying - and we respond. This response from us is crucial as it demonstrates to our children a valuable lesson about communication: it goes both ways. Effective communication requires two people to be involved in the transaction of information, no matter how simple it is. Baby cries; caregiver responds with gentle speech. They may not know exactly what we are saying, but our tone communicates to them that we care and will help them. We then try to work out what we can do to help them - and they cry until we get it right!! Communication at work!
Language development in babies takes on different forms as they develop: there is the recognition of voices that they turn towards and quiet when the hear them - they may even smile when they hear a familiar voice. Then they begin experimenting with making other noises themselves, moving their mouths and their tongues to produces different gurgling and cooing sounds, attempting to imitate the speech that they hear so often. This then moves into the formation of words, then sentences, then - heaven help you if you have a child like mine - many, many sentences strung together on their chosen subject matter!
So how can you as a parent assist your child’s language development?
There are several very simple ways that are gentle and fun for you both.
The first is important right from birth: speak to your baby.
Let them hear your voice often. Respond to their cries and needs. Use your voice to soothe them.
Verbalise the names of objects as baby sees them - do this as they reach for a toy, during nappy changes, bath time and as you move around doing your own activities.
Describe your actions and routines. “Let’s go outside and lie on a blanket under a tree for awhile. Can you see the light moving through the leaves? The sky is so blue and the sun feels warm.” You may feel silly speaking to your baby in this way, but I can assure you they are taking it all in and there are so many new connections forming in their brain as you do this.
Sing to your baby! Recite nursery rhymes! Move their body to the actions of children’s songs!
And read to your child. There are so many excellent children’s books available and many of them can be found here at Offspring Education. Make reading time a quiet, relaxing time that is enjoyable for you all. Babies will then associate reading with pleasure and are likely to keep that association as they get older. Establishing a routine of reading before bedtime is also an excellent way to encourage reading and is a wonderful relaxing activity to wind down before sleeping.
The more you can speak to your child right from infancy, the more you will be assisting their language development. It also helps to develop a closer bond between a baby and their caregiver, and that’s another benefit we are more than happy to assist with.
Want to know more about language development? Our next blog and video in this series will focus on language development in toddlers - how will things change as they get older? Make sure you are on our email list to find out first!