3 Ways to Promote Language & Communication in your Child (Pt 3 of 4 Childhood Development Series)
A child’s development in communication and language is amazing to observe. Not only are they voicing their opinions and providing a glimpse of how their minds work, but they are exploring new territories, boundaries, and figuring out their place in the family.
Many of us may have expectations (whether we realize it or not) of how our child’s speech should be developing and at what rate, but it is imperative to remember that just as in our previous posts about cognitive and emotional development, no two children grow at the same rates.
I remember the intense worry I had about my younger daughter because she wasn’t talking. Her older sister talked early and according to the child development books, my younger daughter was falling behind. When I brought this concern up with the pediatrician, she smiled and asked me if my older daughter was a big help to me with my younger daughter. “Yes! But what does that have to do with Sophia’s speech delay?” She informed me that my older daughter, Cate, was being so very helpful that my Sophia didn’t need to talk. Cate was attending to her baby sister’s needs so well that Sophia didn’t need to form words to get her needs and wants to be met. Before long, Sophia was talking and believe me when I tell you, she hasn’t stopped!
The lesson I learned is that if your firstborn was a meticulous learner who picked up communicating with you right away, that does not mean that your second child will grow the same way. It’s somewhat natural to compare but I want to caution you a bit. What you see other children doing is not the complete picture. When you compare a neighbor’s kid to yours, you are comparing a kid’s “outsides” to your kid’s “insides.” What I mean is you only get a snapshot of others but you have a complete picture of your own children. It’s not apples to apples and it will lead to unhealthy expectations which lead to criticism, failure, and, stress, disappointment, and, if left unchecked can erode self-esteem.
The best way to encourage your child’s development of language and communication is to talk to them. Talk to them about your day. What you plan to do, where you are going, what happened at work, what book you’re reading. Then, read to your child. Read the newspaper aloud, read bedtime stories, read labels on food items. We, as parents, have a very critical role in helping our flourish in growing their vocabulary as well as expressing themselves creatively, emotionally, and logically. Here are some mindful tips to consider when you are nurturing your little one in their communication skills.
Engage in conversations every day
Your role as your child’s primary caretaker is to help them develop their language by talking to them. It is not a sole responsibility of your child’s school or peers to teach your child to express themselves. You, as the primary educator, has the awesome ability to help your child by engaging them in conversations every day. Even as a baby, children can learn communication skills by babbling or using gestures. Together, you and your child will learn to form a bond through “talking” to each other until she gains the capacity to handle actual words.
Make sure to respond to your kids when they are a gesture to communicate with you. Take the time to be verbal with your little one as it encourages them to learn and grow in their language development. By responding to your baby as he begins to attempt to communicate, you are helping them build their vocabulary as well as explore their likes and dislikes. You will be surprised by how much a child can express themselves even before they develop their words.
Habit of reading
Taking your kids to the library to pick out books to read can start as early infancy. Babies love it when you read to them. By sharing a love of books with your child, you are grooming a habit of learning and reading that will further their knowledge in later years. When you read to your child, you engage them with words in different contexts than what he is used to when he is communicating with you. He will begin to understand the meaning and the use of various words as well as being able to relate it to everyday situations to gain a deeper understanding of the words he uses.
Reading can also teach your child the connection between spoken and read words, which enables your child to learn the different parts of language and communication. Child development research has found that the learning of the differentiation between spoken and written word is one of the key stepping stones to learning how to read. It is exhilarating as we can witness a progression of understanding as our children take part in expressing what they are interested in either through gestures or words when we read to them. Ultimately, it is essential to make a habit of reading to our kids because it introduces new ideas and gives our kids a great reason to be passionate about learning later on in life.
Learning outside of your home
Language development can not progress within the comforts of your home. So get outside. Whenever you get a chance, be out with your kids so they can observe how you interact with others. Did you know that when we communicate, only 7% of the communication is in the words we speak? A conversation consists of other means as well, such as non-verbal body language and the tone of which we speak.
To teach our kids to communicate effectively and develop their language skills, we can show them best through our actions. By taking our kids on a trip to the mall, the zoo, or a museum, we are opening up a whole new world for our kids to experience.
No educational television program or interactive computer game can teach your child the means of communications as well as just being out where people live and work. Let your kids see how you converse with a coffee barista or an older adult in the park. Through watching your example, your kids may come to understand the fascinating differences and similarities in how we interact with others.
This will also help them develop trust. Teach them that community helpers, local workers, etc. are grownups that they can trust. This is an important step in helping them learn that the world is full of helpful, caring people and that is the building block to allow children to take calculated risks to reach their goals. The key is to let your child lead the way with exploring new interests and experiences. Your children will learn to communicate through various interactions and experiences that engage them to learn and grow.