Research suggests that the amount of interactive language a child is exposed to in the home correlates greatly with the development of verbal expressions and reading skills. To put your child on the right track for language and reading development, make sure your home is a rich and encouraging language environment.
Here is a list of tips and strategies that can be used to promote healthy language growth in children:
Read together daily
Often parents stop reading to their children once the child learns to read independently. This is a big mistake. Parental reading skills are usually more advanced, so they can expose children to higher grammar, vocabulary, images, and ideas in speech. Be aware when reading to your child that they often may not ask what an unfamiliar word means. When coming across an unfamiliar word you can ask your child to define it and if necessary provide them with the definition, synonym, antonym or physical enactment of the meaning.
Don’t interrupt or fill in the blanks
Patience is essential for encouraging language development in children. Give your child time to put their thoughts into words and opportunities to practice. If simply waiting doesn’t do the trick for a child with word retrieval problems, then prompt them with a ridiculous alternative. For example, if your child says, “I’m looking for the, uh… um…er…,” you can ask “rhinoceros… leprechaun?” Usually after a few giggles the child is relaxed enough to find the right word.
Spend time each day having your child describe the details of their day or particular topics of interest or ideas
The dinner table tends to be a natural conversation venue for the family to talk and catch up on daily events. Also, before turning out the lights in bed is another great time to let your child fill you in on the day’s events as well as create conversation and bonding time in a relaxed environment. If your child speaks very little or has nothing to say, you can provoke them by taking a stance with which you know they’ll disagree. For instance, if the child loves legos, say, “some people think buying legos for children is a bad idea, because they cost a lot and don’t serve any purpose. What do you say?”
Make sure your child’s skills are constantly challenged and forced to grow
Home is a place where children feel free to take risks with language. They feel comfortable making mistakes, asking questions and discussing complex topics they would otherwise be afraid to explore. Continue to build and challenge your child’s vocabulary. Introduce a new word and offer its definition or use it in context that is easily defined. For example, “I think I will drive you in the vehicle this morning instead of making you walk to school.”
Avoid electronic devices, television, etc. whenever possible
Research has shown that the encounters that best promote language growth are interactive – back and forth, face-to-face exchanges conducted in a relatively quiet background. Children that are receiving more noise stimulation than language stimulation will fail to develop the language skills they need to succeed in school or to communicate effectively with their parents, teacher, and peers.
Speak in complete sentences and use words with precise meanings
Instead of letting your child hear you say “ where is that thingy,” or where is that whatchamacallit” try to always speak with precision and accuracy. Model the richness of language for your child by adding multiple word meanings and using different words to express the same thought.