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As a parent, I have worried a bit if I’m doing enough to enhance language in my daughter. The first 3 years of life are important for developing a foundation for a child’s future progress in language and in another areas (social interaction, behavioral control, etc.), so yes, me being the anxious person, I worried. There are milestones that children need to meet, and there are strategies for enhancing language development that can be used in order to meet those milestones. While there is variability in terms of when these milestones are met, it would be important for you to discuss concerns with your child’s healthcare provider.
This is an overall summary of language milestones in the first two years of life. For a more detailed description of language milestones, click here. As a professor of developmental psychology, I have taught about these milestones, as well as how to enhance language development. There are a lot of options and possibilities that can be used to help enhance language, but I will discuss those that helped the most.
Almost as soon as my baby came home, I started reading to her, singing to her, and talking to her (once I got over at least some of the sleep deprivation, of course). The more exposure to language, the more this will help develop her brain. As a result of consistently reading to your baby early on, your baby’s vocabulary will be larger later on.
Also, when your baby is starting to make those cute noises and babbles, babble and smile back. This is the start of turn taking in conversations. Here’s a cute video of my daughter when she was about 7 months (single syllable babbling). We certainly did smile, but we were more focused on video taping it than trying to talk back because it was so cute! 🙂
Children are like sponges. They take in what they see and hear, sometimes even to the detriment of taking in some bad things at times. For example, I sometimes become frustrated because something broke or fell over, and I say “Oh sh**!” I knew the age was coming close to when my baby was about to have a vocabulary explosion and start two word phrases (18-20 months), but I didn’t think she was quite there yet. She woke up from a nap one afternoon when she was about 19 months or so, and she was standing up in her crib pointing to a pile of poop (she outdid her diaper), saying, “Oh sh**!”. It seems she was ready for that vocabulary explosion and two work phrase stage, but at least she didn’t say this in front of my mother in law.
The point is that the more you expose a child to variety in one’s language, the more they will pick up on new words, phrases, sentence structure, etc. When you go to the store, narrate to the child what you see. When you are cleaning something up, tell your child what you are doing.
3.Use gestures for enhancing language
Children learn the meaning of words and phrases when you use gestures and point to what you are talking about. When my child was 12 months and older, I would take her outside and point to the tree and say “Look at the tree!” Or I might point to the car, and say “car.” Also, be sure to look back at the child and then look back at the object as you are saying the word.
4.Interact in other ways to enhance language
Turn off the darn tv, sit down, and play with your child. I get it, I have been there, sometimes I just want to vegetate and let my mind be blank for a while. But, take 15 minutes at least a day to sit down with your child and play with them, while having a conversation. Ask questions about where on earth on the fish is going while riding on the back of firetruck. Keep the conversation going. This helps build social communication and conversational skills.
I have a train set just like the one below, and it gives my daughter and I lots of inspiration for conversations!
Or these blocks would be excellent! There could be conversations about what your child is building, as well as many opportunities to learn words (different colors, shapes, etc.)
5.Books and more books!
We have always heard this one, but I can’t emphasize this one enough. My daughter loves stories. Books can be read word for word, but you can also teach a child so much more from books. You can ask the child other questions about what the characters are doing. Use words to describe where objects are in the picture (such as “See the picture hanging above the fireplace!”.
I highly recommend this book below!!
The more you engage your child in conversations and reading, the better your child’s language will be later on. This also helps other aspects of development, which include social skills- How to take turns in a conversation and how to ask questions and respond. This is a fun and exciting time to watch your child learn and say new words!
On to more adventures in learning new words and sentences!
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