Our children can’t text us, Poke us, or IM us, but they do try to Connect!
We have the power to grow language skills by using WORDS! WORDS! WORDS!
CONNECT! Parents can connect with babies by noticing what their child is looking at and then talking about it. Connect with our babies and toddlers by looking at them and responding to their babbles and motions.
TALK MORE! Parents and caregivers can create a “tour guide” running commentary about what the child is doing or what the parent is doing. “Eat some sweet applesauce.” “Yes, you see a big truck.” It may seem funny to talk to someone so young, but parents are teaching their children by being their tour guide to their world.
TAKE TURNS! The parent can then wait for any response, including a smile, babble, motion, or words and respond by talking more. This way, parents and children are taking turns.
When children are able to talk, parents can continue the “serve and return” conversation to grow vocabulary and language skills by commenting or questioning, waiting for a response and adding more. “Yes, that is a big, noisy yellow truck! ”
Commenting about what the child is interested in is a good way to grow language. The focus could be a book, a toy, something in the park. This is called joint attention.
Pausing is a good way to invite a language response from the child. Children need time to process their thoughts.
The adult can then expand the language by repeating what the child said and add on a little more. For example, if the child says “Car,” the adult can reply, “There goes a red car.” Parents do this all the time. Now we know it is one of the secrets of language development and very important for every child.
Adults who ask questions are also helping the child’s language development. Questions are often “closed questions” such as “What color is the apple?” or “Where is the doggy?” These questions require a short answer, sometimes pointing.
Open-ended question require more thinking time and complex language responses. Examples of open-ended questions are, “What is going to happen next?” , “What is the fish doing?” , and “Why is that squirrel digging a hole?”