Ever wonder how the language you speak affects your child’s language acquisition and development? Turns out, we have a huge impact on how our children not only develop language but also how they view themselves through the words we use.
The notion of a child primarily learning language from parents/caregivers may seem somewhat obvious, (your child suddenly starts repeating a “not-so-Rated G” phrase you often say while driving in traffic, for example…), but really, so much happens when children begin acquiring language.
So, if you’re interested in enhancing language skills (vocabulary, sentence structure, positive phrases, etc.) with your toddler, here are some basic tips to consider from Educents All-Star Blogger (and mom of soon-to-be 2 little ones), Hilary!
You tell the story, or let him/her tell the story. Below is an example of a story my daughter June often retells. It involves my good friend, Liz and her daughter Abby, who is just a smidgen younger than my daughter.
June: “One time, there was Abby.”
Me: “Oh! Abby! Is Abby a friend?”
June: “Yes. One time, Abby fell off the ceiling fan, and Liz caught her”.
Mom: “Was Abby sad?”
June: “Yes, Abby cried, but Liz caught her”.
Don’t ask where my daughter came up with her plot; I haven’t the slightest clue. But, storytelling allows June to share her thought process about something and in doing so, enhances her language. It also allows me to actively listen to my daughter and truly learn about her thoughts. When I tell her a story, I can elaborate on details about characters and setting (I’m modeling storytelling and language for her). And in turn, she often mimics me.
2. Embrace Conversation
Often, you may find adults/parents who complain about the child who constantly asks, “why?” In fact, I recall a certain Louis C.K. stand up where he discuss this struggle with his daughter. And, while I admit to getting slightly annoyed at times (mostly when “why” is asked at the most pointless of questions, like, “why is the neighbor’s house not grandma’s house?” and my daughter merely wants to say, why), it’s important to keep that conversation alive! Why?
Turns out, when parents talk to their kids about things/objects of interest (instead of dismissing), children end up with larger vocabularies than their peers, even as young as 18 months! It comes as no surprise these kids are the ones who end up as better readers and mathematicians during Kindergarten and 1st grade.
Does this mean you have to explain every detail about everything daily? Nope! But, keep the conversation going! I would argue, the more you speak with your child, the more s/he will speak to you. Hopefully, that trend lasts forever.
3. Use Positive Language
I cannot stress this one enough, and it’s really quite simple to explain. Instead of:
“Bella! Stop playing in the laundry hamper!”
“Don’t grab my phone when I’m using it”
“Bella, I’m using the laundry hamper right now. Let’s find something else to play with.”
Or, better yet,
“Bella, do you want to help me fold the laundry? What shall we fold first?”
“Bella, you know that my phone is not a toy. What can happen to the phone if it falls?”
We all shout “NO” occasionally. It’s one of the requirements of parenting. But modifying your commands can open up room for conversation with your child. Not only that, but positive phrases do not attack the child and instead, redirect the “undesirable behavior.” Said child won’t feel bad about him/herself and instead, and will realize what s/he was doing wasn’t okay.
*This language tip was first taught to me in teaching; it works with boys and girls alike. So, even if you consider yourself a parent of a “rowdier” child, remember: positive language should be used with all. Build up your child’s sense of self-worth.
Can it get any more fun? Sing songs with your child. Sing a wide variety (steer clear of the graphic content and music meant for us adults, unless you don’t mind to hearing your child repeat certain lyrics).
Your child doesn’t care about your singing ability, and trust me when I say this: if you think you’re a bad singer, and constantly say it, there’s a good chance your child will also believe s/he is a bad singer. You don’t want that for your children, so, sing and have fun while doing it! You are your own worst critic; your child could not care less.
Reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give a child. I don’t think anyone would deny that. So, read a lot. Read every, single day. And when you read, ask your child questions about the story. “What will happen next?” or, “What would happen if?” Simply reading a story is pleasant, but elaborating on characters, pictures, writing, text, etc., is so much more fun. It enhances reading comprehension, builds vocabulary, and gives children an opportunity to talk about things from their perspectives. ¡Muy importanté! (very important, in Spanish)
Try this: Next time you read a story to your child (one they’ve heard many times), change the ending and see how they react. Or, change a character’s name. Or, the beginning of the story. Something. Anything. Throw them off guard. See what happens. You’ll find your child might have quite the imagination, or be quite the stickler to following routines.
*Okay, okay. So, these five tips weren’t exactly brief. I get it. But, I have to give some credible explanation as to why I believe those five tips are worthy. All of these ideas stem from the book Einstein Never Used Flashcards, and while it is nearly a decade old, I find the information relevant and important for today’s parents to consider.
Meet Hilary! She’s a mom, a teacher, and a reviewer-extraordinaire. We are so happy to include her as an Educents All-Star Blogger. Hilary is here to give you the inside scoop on our products from a user perspective, so check back regularly for her input!