Activities, Literacy, Talk, Tips

Four ways to help your child’s language development

March 19, 2019

Little steps are all important on the road to learning language. Here are four things you can do, right from the beginning to support early language development.

1. Narrate your day

It may seem silly at first but talking about what you’re doing as you go about your day is a great and easy way to give your child regular exposure to language. And every word they hear counts – especially in the critical years from birth to five. Remember to pause and encourage feedback from your child. Even little babies can make gestures and noises to contribute to your ‘conversation’.

2. Keep books in every room, in the car, the pram and in your bag for outings

Keeping books (picture books, board books, and junior non-fiction) accessible and sharing them regularly not only makes transitions and wait time less stressful, the practice also makes a unique contribution to language development.  Think about all the things you read about that don’t come up in conversation or day-to-day observation. It’s part of the reason why reading helps children expand their vocabulary. How else can we discover the meaning of igloos or polar bears when we live in the Sunshine State? Plus, the pictures in books help young children make sense of new and unusual concepts and words. Reading really does open us up to new worlds and is particularly important for little learners.

3. Involve your child in household tasks

Writing a shopping list? Pegging out the clothes? Packing the toys? If you engage and involve your child in helping you complete these tasks, they can be rich in opportunities for language and learning. For older children, ask them to pass you all the blue pegs first as you hang out the laundry. See if they can check whether the milk is “full”, “half full” or “empty” before you add it to the list. Can they count how many apples are left in the bowl? Rather than ask your child to clean up, give more specific instructions like Can you put all the books back on the shelf? Sing a song to make it fun. You could make one up or here’s a simple one sung to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star.

Clean up, clean up little star, stop and clean up where you are.
Time to put our toys away, we’ll get them out another day
Clean up clean up little star, stop and clean up where you are

For younger children and babies, simply talking, pausing and encouraging them to respond in their own way, allows them to become familiar with words and the pattern of language so they can begin to join in – even if it’s just by making sounds and expressions in the early stages.  It also helps them to learn the turn taking that happens during conversations.

4. Sing the classics

When we sing, we slow our language down which helps babies and young children hear all the smaller sounds that make up words – an important early language and literacy skill. Brush up on old favourites and learn new nursery rhymes at a free session at your local library. Here are a few suggested by public library staff.

Spoken Rhymes

  • Jelly on a Plate
  • I’m a Little Cuckoo Clock
  • Here is the Beehive
  • Baby’s Nap
  • Ten Little Fingers

Singing Rhymes

  • 1,2,3,4,5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive
  • 5 Little Ducks
  • Baa Baa Pink Sheep
  • Der Glumphf Went the Little Green Frog
  • I Went To Visit a Farm One Day
  • You’re My Little Baby
  • Miss Polly
  • Open/Shut Them
  • Wash Your Dirty Hands
  • Rain is Falling Down