Language development is something that usually just happens during the toddler and preschool years. However, each child develops according to their own schedule and may not always be at the same level as other children. Various learning disabilities may play into a child’s ability to acquire and use language effectively. Regardless of whether the child has learning disabilities or is just slow, there are several activities parents can do to make language a central focus.
The best way to develop language is through conversation. Talk to the child using questions he has to answer with more than one word. If he answers with only one word, use a few more words to add to his answer and try to get him to repeat them. Talk about what is being done when completing tasks. While folding the laundry, talk about the parts of the clothing such as the sleeves or the buttons. Discuss the colors and texture or who the item belongs to. Involve the child in the process. The same process can be done when cooking or baking or bathing the dog. Use any opportunity as a chance to learn new words or phrases.
Using picture books without words is a great way to encourage language. Take turns telling a story about the pictures, or tell the story and ask questions for the child to answer. This also cultivates her imagination while providing bonding and play time. Older siblings can get involved in the process by drawing pictures and making their own book for the preschooler to “read.” Flashcards can produce the same result when taking three or four and making up a story.
Toys and games
Most preschoolers love to pretend to talk on a toy telephone. This is a fun way to develop language as the child and a parent or sibling take turns conversing over the toys. The parent can ask questions for the child to answer while encouraging him to ask his own questions. Stuffed animals may be used to put on a puppet show. This may have to be done a few times with the child as the audience before she has an idea of how to do it.
Playing games is a great way to get a preschooler talking and understanding language. Board games such as Candy Land can be used as players name the cards or colors, how many squares and count as they move along the board. Interactive games such as Simon Says, Mother May I or I Spy encourage language as the child has to listen carefully to understand what she is to do. When it is her turn, she has to form the words to tell others what to do.
Taking the child out of the home opens up many opportunities to develop language skills. While taking a walk through the neighborhood, conversations could focus on the different shapes and sizes of houses. See how many different colors he can find or count the cars he sees. Talk about the weather or animals he sees. If walks are taken frequently, see if he can tell you how to get back home or to another location.
Many sites online are geared towards preschoolers. Here, they can learn the sounds of the letters, numbers, words or sentences. They learn listening skills as they follow directions while working on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. These are important skills in language development. PBS has age-appropriate games based on the child’s favorite characters to allow the child to learn while using resources parents trust. Many other sites can be found by searching under headings such as “preschool games” or “preschool learning activities.”
Opportunities for language development abound when parents are looking for them. Language isn’t simply about speaking. It also involves understanding what others say and mean. These skills are developed as the child practices conversing with others, whether it be parents, siblings or friends. Look for many fun activities to do throughout the day to encourage verbal interaction with the child and language will develop.