Learning to speak is an essential milestone in the development of any child. The spoken language allows children to express their emotions and needs. And for teachers and caregivers, figuring out how to help young children in their care develop language skills, may be more of a difficult task than you think.
That’s why we came up with five ways to help you encourage positive language development while they’re in your care:
1. Narrate throughout the day. Explain what you’re doing while you’re with the child. For example, “Right now I am feeding you peas and carrots. Do you like the way it tastes? After we’re done, it will be play time.” By telling them what’s going on around them, will help them learn vocabulary and understand what’s happening in that moment.
2. Read often. Books provide a language that a child might not hear every day. It’s also a good way to build trust with the children in your care since you will either hold them or sit directly in front of them. You can start with simple board books, and as the children get older, graduate to picture books and longer stories. Story times can also help them develop a passion for books.
3. Sing nursery songs together. Young children love music and movement. When they hear animated songs, like “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” they learn about the world around them and the rhythm of language.
4. Enunciate your words and never criticize their speech. When enunciating your words, this will make a difference in the quality of words children will speak and it will help them register what you are saying more easily. Instead of criticizing their speech, repeat the statement back to them with the correct pronunciation or word usage. Be sure to give the child lots of praise for their efforts.
5. Follow your student’s lead. If the children seem interested in a picture in the book you’re reading, take a few moments to talk about it. If they seem intrigued by a specific object like a dog outside, talk about that too. Repeating an infant’s babbles back to them and asking questions can strengthen their language skills as well.