By Victoria Vanderstoep (Student Communicative Disorders Assistant, Durham College)
It’s never too early to begin encouraging communication in young children. But teaching language is not something parents need to set aside extra time for – it is something that happens by sharing time with parents and siblings, and exploring the world around them. When children are beginning to learn language, they need to have experiences to do so. Then they need to learn the words to talk about those experiences, and finally, they will need someone to talk with. Engaging your child in conversations as you are going about your day provides them with experiences and the words that go along with those moments.
Routines are an excellent opportunity for language learning – during these parents can talk about what is of interest to their child. Children begin to make sense of their world by participating in daily routines, such as getting dressed, brushing their teeth, eating meals and going for a ride in the car. Not only are they learning about the organization of their world through these routines, but they are also learning about social roles and the language that is used in these routines. During these routines parents give their children the important words for that routine. For example, providing the child with language during bath time, allows the child to have the language needed to express excitement over bubbles popping in the tub.
Each of these routines has a series of short steps that need to be done in a specific order. Parents can use this to their advantage. By labelling items, such as the clothes the child is putting on, or the ingredients being used to make cookies, parents are exposing their children to new words which will make their vocabulary grow.
Language learning doesn’t have to be an activity that time is set aside for each day. Use every opportunity of your day to engage your child in what you’re doing. It’s important to be flexible, and following the child’s lead. Share their interests, build language into what they want to explore, and their language will begin to blossom. It’s amazing how quickly children begin to pick up the language they are exposed to.