Language Opportunities Are Everywhere
Many parents believe that they have to actively teach their children to talk. Children will learn to talk, by sharing times with their parents, and exploring the world around them. During daily routines, you can talk about things that are of interest to your child; the snow or rain falling outside, the favourite doll or truck.
Although children are born with the ability to learn language, they are not born with the words. Every time the child touches something or looks at something, the parent should name the object of interest. Many of us often use words such as “this” or “that” to refer to items. To help children learn the important words that they will use to have their needs and wants met, we need to always be thinking about giving the real object name.
When children are learning language, they first need to have experiences. Then they need to have the words to talk about those experiences. Finally, but most importantly, they need to have someone to talk with. Doing what you do all day long, and involving your child in conversations, will provide the experiences. When you give them the words that go along with the experiences, their vocabulary will grow. They will amaze you with what they say.
We all enjoy talking with others about the ideas and thoughts that are interesting to us.
Parents are the best conversational partners when they talk about what the child wants to talk about. Also parents need to give their children a variety of different words, such as nouns, verbs, and descriptive words. When we only know the names of things, it’s hard to make sentences. As children develop, first they learn nouns, like names of the special people in their lives, their Mama and Dada. When they also have action words like “go”, “eat”, “drink”, they can begin to make those early sentences like “eat cookie” or “go car”.
During daily routines such as bath time, bed time, snack time, dressing or sharing a story, parents can give the important words to their children. These words will help the children to express excitement over bubbles popping, or have the satisfaction of getting that important cracker.
Before bath time, you can help your children learn the names of their clothing, as they undress to get ready for the bath. Your child can be a helper and turn on the tap. When you emphasize the word “on”’ each time you turn on the tap, eventually, when you wait and ask your child what you should do, they will be able to tell you to turn the tap “on”. The word “off” can be repeated many times as you help your child remove each piece of clothing.
Bath time provides lots of opportunities for talking together. You can use a variety of kitchen utensils, including spoons, cups and funnels, as well as, bath toys, to have fun and teach your child new words. If you pour water through a funnel into a cup, you can say: “Put the water in.” or “Dump the water out.” Your child will not realize that you are actually teaching them the words “pour”, “in”’ and “out”’.
During daily routines, we can also help children to learn language by combining gestures with our words.
Even before a baby is one year old, he may start to use gestures, like pointing, waving bye- bye and showing us what interests him. Often when children around that age want their mother they will reach for her before they can say “mommy”. These early gestures help children to communicate what they’re interested in and what they want. Gestures are very important because they help parents to understand what the child is trying to communicate, so they can give him the words he will need.
Children learn these early gestures from the important adults in their lives. At mealtime, instead of just putting your child in his high chair, hold your hands up, ask your child if he wants to come up, emphasize the word “‘up” and wait to see if your child will use the gesture and try to say the word.
Take some time to think about the gestures you can combine with the words you use. Children watch their parents very carefully and want to do what they do. Using gestures with children who are just learning words, gives them extra information that will help them to both understand what the words mean and eventually to use the words. Recent research has shown that children will use more gestures if parents use a lot of gestures, along with words.
Using gestures also helps young children begin to understand words earlier and to understand more words. Some children who are experiencing delays in their language do not use many gestures to communicate with their parents. Parents of children who have these delays can emphasize gestures when reading stories, when having meals, or during bath time. When we read about horses and say the word “jump” and show them how horses jump, it is easier for them to learn the word, because they have that extra visual information. When we say the word “turn” while showing how the tap is turned on, before bath time, they will learn to understand and eventually say the word “turn”. By emphasizing the gesture for drinking and eating, along with saying the words, parents can be great supporters of their child’s language development. Gestures make it easier for all children to learn language, whether or not they are experiencing language delays.