Children begin very early in life to acquire language skills. Language helps children gain independence, interact with others, and participate in the surrounding culture. It plays a role in social interaction and expression of emotions, as well as learning.
Most children follow a sequence of language development: crying and cooing, babbling, first words, and first sentences. By the age of 5 most children have developed a proficiency in oral language and use it effectively to accomplish their purposes and meet their needs.
Even very young children are soothed by the mere voices of loved ones. Sing, chant, and carry on casual conversations with children – whether or not they answer or even before they are able to understand. Children tune in more than we sometimes realize. The language they hear is the raw material from which their own language develops – and through which much of their learning about the world takes place.
Kids learn a lot when adults simply talk to them in the course of daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and doing chores. Riding in the car or on a bus – or even pushing the shopping cart – parents can comment on what they see along the way. And there is a fringe benefit of keeping up running conversation: the child is less likely to get bored and to misbehave.
When you plan a family outing or special event, talk about it with your child beforehand and afterward. Anticipating and recalling experiences not only promote children’s language development but also increase their knowledge and understanding.
Songs, fingerplays, and nursery rhymes are especially good for introducing children to the patterns and rhythms of language. And being read to is a real joy. When we take the time to read aloud and converse with our children, they learn to value language – as well as our company.
Family Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs
National Education for the Education of Young Children
Deborah Diffily and Kathy Morrison, editors; 1996; pg. 61.