Discover the Child

Discover the Child
"There is a tiny light in the unconscious of mankind which guides it toward better things." "We must follow the child, but we must follow the child as his leader." -Maria Montessori

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Talking with Toddlers: Supporting Language

This is it! Supporting a toddler's need for a rich language environment is the last installment in the Talking With Toddlers series. I also saw a cartoon from "The New Yorker" today on facebook that read, "A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go [$*%@$]ing ape [$%&#]." I try to keep my posts positive and to the point, but I find myself even more motivated following these earth shattering findings. I'll keep this one as short as possible!

We've discussed how to use language that supports the need for movement and senses, love and security and relationships, and cognition. This last, most straight forward installment is about a toddler's need for a rich Language Environment

In an effort to be as brief as possible there are only three things to keep in mind when supporting your child's language development: 

  1. Speak to your child often, even before your child begins speaking!
  2. Remove language obstacles (like background noise, pacifiers, hearing loss)
  3. Exposure and Real Experiences- sensory experiences are the foundation of language

The moment an infant is born, she is already wired for language and drawn to the sound of his mother's voice. In Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky describes ways of supporting language development in an infant's preverbal stage such as: 

Pre-verbal Language Exposure

  • Parent speak, parent look parent gesture- your exaggerated faces and gestures along with melodic speech grab your infant's attention and help wire his brain for attachment and communication. Don't be afraid to look silly.
  • Protoconversation- Even before your infant and toddler can speak, it is important to have conversations. Speak then pause, as if your child will respond. Researchers have found this type of conversation is a huge benefit to language development. It might sound like this: 

Types of Language

  • Quantity counts- The amount of words a child hears greatly improves his language ability.
  • Variety- Consider singing, reciting or reading poetry, reading books, rhymes, labeling, describing your child's actions, describing objects, varying sentence length and structure. 
  • Precision- Your child is at the perfect stage for absorbing vocabulary. Using precise language, like saying, "Daisy," instead of, "Flower," will not only help your child learn new words, but support his overall language development. 
    • Research shows that children learn new words when the word comes at the end of a sentence or following his name.
Removing Language Obstacles

  • Hearing Loss- Whether congenital or temporary due to ear infections, hearing loss inhibits your child's ability to absorb language and learn language sounds (phonemes). This foundation is important for reading later, too
  • Background Noise- Children's sense of hearing is still developing. A child's ability to decipher white noise (like a loud fan), television or radio from speech is extremely poor. While you are able to filter out background noise and hone in on an individual's voice, your child cannot. When background noise is present, your child is missing out on language opportunities. 
  • Pacifier- If your child uses a pacifier while awake, he is not able to practice speech.
  • Inhibited Movement- If your child is not able to freely explore his environment, the experiences that serve as a foundation for language development will be greatly diminished. 
Exposure and Real Experiences- Sensory experiences are the foundation for language. Children cannot learn language from a television set. They must touch real objects and have real experiences. Consider:
  • Name objects using precise names. 
  • Practice oral counting in real situations. 
  • Describe what you see together using precise language. 

Enjoy Talking with your toddler!