Children begin very early in life to acquire language skills. Language helps children gain independence, interact with others, and participate in the surrounding culture. Language skills allow children to express their emotions and learn by asking questions.
Most children follow a sequence of language development: crying/cooing, babbling, first words, and first sentences. By the age of 5 most children have developed a proficiency in oral language and use it effectively to accomplish their purpose and meet their needs.
Even very young children are soothed by the voices of loved ones. Sing, chant, and carry on casual conversations with children – whether or not they answer or even before they are able to understand. Children tune in more than we sometimes realize. The language they hear is the raw material from which their own language develops and much of their language about the world takes place.
Children learn a lot when adults talk to them in the course of daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and doing chores. When riding on a bus or pushing a shopping cart, parents can comment on what they see along the way. Another benefit of keeping up a running conversation is children are less likely to get bored and misbehave.
When planning a family outing or special event, talk about it with your child beforehand and afterward. Anticipating and recalling experiences not only promotes children’s language development but also increases their knowledge and understanding.
Songs, finger plays, and nursery rhymes are especially good for introducing children to the patterns and rhythms of language.
When we take the time to read aloud and converse with our children, they learn to value language and our company. Reading together builds relationships and is a real joy for both parents and children.