What exactly is “language”?
Simply put, language is the way we communicate with others whether spoken, written, signed, conveyed via facial expression, etc. The two main types are receptive and expressive language. Receptive language refers to what a child understands that is being communicated to them. Expressive language refers to how a child communicates to or interacts with others.
Focus on Language Early!
You can start promoting your child’s language development from birth! In fact, the first few years of life (particularly birth-5 years) are the most crucial for a child’s language development. Language develops rapidly during these years and language development is often more difficult after this time.
Even though your infant obviously doesn’t understand everything you are saying, hearing your words throughout the day is exposing him/her to the language he/she will be speaking before you know it!
5 Easy Tips for Promoting Language in Infants and Toddlers
1. Play is a Child’s Work
One of the most important things for a child to do is play! In fact, language skills tend to follow the development of certain play skills. For example, children typically combine two objects in play such as feeding a bottle to a baby before they combine two words in speech such as “baby eat.”
I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by all of the things on my to-do list that I forget to take the time to just let my children play. A child learns so much from playing. So…let them explore! Let them be messy! Let them imagine! Let them create! Let them be silly! Let them PLAY! Better yet, play with them!
2. Read Together from the Beginning
Reading to your baby from the start will promote parent-child bonding as well as help create a routine of reading that will hopefully last for years to come. Books help introduce a variety of different words as well as pictures to associate with the oral language they are hearing.
I remember when my son was young laying on the floor beside him during tummy time looking at books together. My husband and I read short books to him that simply labeled pictures, long Dr. Seuss books, and everything in between. I truly believe that this has set him up to love reading ever since!
If you would like to read more on how to incorporate reading into every day in fun ways click here.
3. Sing Songs
Singing songs together is another way to promote language. Simple finger play songs such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Pat-a-Cake, or Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes are great songs to start with. As you sing these (and do the motions) with your child, he/she will likely begin imitating the motions first and then eventually sing along.
4. Introduce Early Sign Language
Introducing simple sign language early on is also a good idea! It helps teach children how to express their wants and needs at an early age, which makes it easier for adults to interpret their wants and needs before they are able to use words.
Good early signs to teach include “more, all done, eat, drink, please, thank you, mommy, daddy.” If you haven’t tried this before, you will probably be surprised with how quickly young children even about 8 months old can pick up on and use these signs.
And don’t worry!! Using signs will not keep your child from using words. In fact, the opposite is true. Infants who use signs typically begin using first words sooner that infants who do not use signs. Speaking is quicker than signing and will eventually replace it. However, I will say it was cute when my oldest continued to sign “more” rather aggressively while saying, “want more please” at the same time.
5. Take the Pressure Off
Being a mommy is one of the most difficult and challenging things we will do in life; however, it should also be one of the most fun and rewarding things too. Enjoy the time you have with your children and have fun with them! Take the pressure off of yourself and off of your child by simply having a good time together.
Children need us to be their constant encouragers and cheerleaders as they learn about the world and how to participate in it. After all, the best thing we can give to them is love, support, and encouragement. This will help increase their confidence and and improve their development across the board!
Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!
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