Language is what connects us to everything and everyone around us. Without words we can’t communicate with other people, we can’t make sense of what we experience and we can’t get the most out of life. With this in mind, it’s important to get your child’s language usage and thinking skills on track from when he’s born, so that language becomes an integral part of how he interacts with his world from early on.
Educational psychologist and Pampers Institute expert Tshepiso Matentjie recommends the following tips to help boost your child’s language skills from early on:
1. Choose one dominant language in which to communicate
Although children only start to utter their first words at about 12 months, they become familiar with language even while they are in their mom’s tummy, as they hear their parents’ voices.
Language understanding develops from birth, so it is important to start speaking to your little one from day one.
One the most important things to consider is that your child will be using language to identify objects around him and express certain needs, and to think and reason. With this in mind:
- It is vital that moms and dads communicate with their little ones in only one language from the start.
- While it is true that toddlers may be able to understand and even speak some words in different languages, this can often be confusing for them when they start to develop thinking and reasoning skills.
- Spoken language develops much quicker than higher order reasoning ability. For example, a young toddler may be able to identify and name objects around him, such as a window, but he needs to have advanced cognitive skills in order to express the function of a window. These reasoning skills can only be fully developed if your child has a solid foundation of one language and can consolidate it in which to think.
- It is up to parents to choose which language they would like to use to communicate with their child. Choose a language that you use daily, know well, and will most likely be used at your child’s daycare or preschool. Other languages can be introduced at a later stage, from about two years old.
2. Use the correct form of the language
In order to give your child the best chance at developing good reasoning skills early on, parents need to ensure that they always use the correct form of the dominant language they have chosen when they communicate. Our country has an amazing variety of cultures, which makes us wonderfully diverse, but also inevitably leads to mixing of languages. This can cause confusion for children when they are developing skills to think and reason. It is therefore important that parents choose a language they have a good knowledge of.
Similarly, caregivers must also be careful to limit the amount of ‘baby talk’ they use when speaking to toddlers. Children should be encouraged to use language properly, and choose the correct words when interacting with the world around them.
3. Encourage your child to question the world around them
Language can only be fully developed through interaction with others. Parents should ensure that they continually use language to stimulate their child’s thinking and challenge them.
The best way to help improve your child’s language is to read to him every day. Choose books that are fun, colourful and interactive so that your toddler is encouraged to engage with what he sees on the page. Be animated when reading, so your child will understand how language can be used to communicate different emotions.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.