Spoken language is one of the things unique to humanity. Infants and toddlers, as they rapidly acquire important language skills, are “evolving” every day as they increase their communication skills and their understanding of the world around them. Providing an environment that capitalizes on these traits and immerses them in language is key to helping foster the development of language and thought.
Here are some things parents and caregivers can do to enhance children’s emerging skills:
TALKING. Talk about things you are doing (“I’m setting the table. Would you like to help?”) and things they are doing (“You built a big tower of blocks! Let’s count them.”) Around town, talk about the things you see and sense: the colors, smells, wind, rain, temperatures, people, etc. Have conversations with your child about the fall weather, how the temperature is changing and what different clothes they need to wear.
READING. Reading right from your child’s birth is important. Books with large pictures, especially those that are black and white, are important to your child’s early vision development. As your baby grows, you can introduce concept books that teach numbers, letters, colors, opposites, etc. For further information on choosing books, you can contact the Family Learning Center, Morris Street or South Street School’s FRCs and the Danbury Library.
SINGING/RHYMING/CHANTING. These activities provide opportunities to have fun with the rhythm of language, and finger plays add another dimension to this through movement, enhancing fine motor development. Young children have an affinity for repetition, which helps to reinforce what they are learning! Even if you feel you can’t bear one more reading of “Good Night Moon” or one more chorus of “Wheels on the Bus,” try to remember you are helping your children develop skills and a habit of active listening, memorizing and reciting that they will need to begin school.
LABELING. Your children gain receptive (listening skills) language by hearing you name things in the environment. Talk about things, people, places and feelings. Gradually, your children will be able to name, describe and express their own thoughts. A natural extension of this activity involves putting word cards on common object in your child’s environment and using simple books with pictures and words to help your child make the connection between spoken language and print. While grocery shopping, have your child connect words to boxes of crackers or cereal. It doesn’t matter what language you use. Hearing the words and having a conversation are the most important to our children’s growing brain cells.
A FINAL NOTE. Be creative and flexible, keeping your child’s age, interests, and attention span in mind. Remember to keep these activities fun. As questions arise, it is important to answer them if you can. When you are not able to come up with an answer, be open and honest, and suggest that you both look it up or ask someone who might know. These important interactions put your child on the right track for reading and being successful in school.
The article was written in part by the Milford, CT Family Resource Center and Anne E. Mead, M. Ed., the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.