Watching children develop their language skills is an extraordinary thing. Watching a baby transition from cries, to gestures and calculated eye contact, to grunts, to sounds that sound a little like words, to words is fascinating.
So how does a baby move from babbles and almost words to conversation? Does this happen at nursery, at pre-school? This, like everything in education, begins in the home with the child’s parents and caregivers.
Children who develop their vocabulary and language skills do so because of the environment that they are in. If you want your child to have a rich vocabulary, they must be immersed in an environment with a rich vocabulary. If you want your child to be able to hold conversation with not only their friends, but the adults around them, they must be used to environments where they are included in conversation.
In past episodes of A Child’s Life we have referred to the saying, “A child is to be seen and not heard.” Although many people still believe this, today’s world has moved beyond this concept. The child that grows up in an environment of being only seen and not heard, often has difficulty finding their voice as a global citizen.
Before we look at how a parent can encourage language development, let’s discuss the consequences of poor language development.
Children who have difficulty with expression orally by using their words and language may also have difficulties with:
· Completing academic tasks
· Social skills
· Planning and sequencing
· Executive functioning
· Sensory processing
So, how can you as a parent encourage the language development of your child? I am going to borrow the concept of the 3 T’s from Dr., researcher and author Dana Suskind. Through her research and the development of the Thirty Million Word Initiative, which works with parents to help encourage language development, she came up with the 3 T’s. Tune in, talk more, and take turns. These three t’s are to allow for maximal brain development in early childhood…as this is the time when intelligence is most malleable with children.
Tune in: The making of a conscious effort to notice what a child is focusing on, and when it is appropriate, talking with the child about it. When a teacher or parent is tuning in, they are following and responding to the child’s lead.
Keys to tuning in:
Talk more: Increased focus on talking with your child or student on what they are focused on.
· The focus should be talking ‘with’ and not ‘to’ him or her.
· The goal of ‘Talk More’ is a mutual level of engagement.
Take turns: Conversation exchange should be engaged
The result of building the three T’s are the development of:
· Self-regulation and executive functioning
· Critical thinking skills
· Emotional insight
So, to conclude, remember that young children are like sponges. Although there is a certain amount of growth that happens naturally, their learning and likelihood of reaching their potential is a direct result of their environment.