Communication and language skills are very important to a child’s overall development skills. Good communication and language skills allow children to engage in better education and socialization throughout their life. Communication refers to both speech, the verbal means of communication, and language, the way in which we express our thoughts and feelings to others. It is important for parents to understand and foster communication and language development in their children at a young age, as these skills will be used everyday for their entire lives!
General Activities for Overall Language Development
- For children, language development is most important during the first three years of their life. This is a great time to expose children to words, books, and language as often as possible. Given how much we communicate on a daily basis, parents can play a huge role in facilitating language development! Below are several activities that parents can utilize at home or on the go to help develop their children’s language skills:
1. Talk to your child all day long: Children hear countless sounds and words every day- music, television, grocery shopping, etc. It is part of a parent’s job to teach new vocabulary words and model correct use of language for your children. You can talk about the schedule for the day, what they are eating, what they are wearing, or what they are doing throughout the day. Asking questions, narrating what you are doing, and talking about things that already happened are also ideas to keep the communication interactive for you and your child. Keeping the conversation related to your child in some manner will allow for more interest in language for your child!
2. Name everything: It is essential to encourage vocabulary development in children as vocabulary directly relates to other developing language skills. Learning new vocabulary skills will aid in the development of language and literacy (reading and writing) skills that are needed to succeed in school. Be sure to use the correct vocabulary word when speaking to your children. Instead of using vague words such as “where is it?” when asking about a toy, use the correct word and ask questions like “where is the car?”. This will instill the idea that, when communicating, we need to use clear and specific language. As your child begins to master words and names, you can encourage them to expand on the words and add more information. An example of this expansion would be adding descriptors to the word “car” to make it the “big red car”. This will continue developing vocabulary skills as well as lay the groundwork for higher level skills such as describing items.
3. Read, read, read: Reading books together with your child on a regular basis is a MUST! Reading and talking about the pictures in the books helps children develop the structure and rhythm of language while also learning new words and sounds. While reading books, make sure to not only read the words on the pages, but also talk about the pictures, ask questions about the book, and make connections between the book and your life. Reading books or stories together regularly will motivate your child to build habits that will help them succeed in the future. Encourage your child to read outside the home at places such as the library or in the waiting room of an doctor’s office, as well as with their siblings and friends in order for them to learn the importance of reading!
4. Tell stories together: Storytelling is a great activity that can be done anywhere, anytime! You and your child can tell stories at home, about pictures, in the car, at the store, or even in preparation for an event. It is important for you to tell your child stories, but also have your child tell you stories about something they have made up or something they have experienced. Telling stories will allow for children to practice the language skills they have learned in a more unstructured way.
By Taylor Villarreal MA, CF-SLP Speech-Language Pathologist