Strategies to Support Language and Vocabulary Development

Treat Children as Partners in Communication

Conversations are the building blocks of language development. Attentive and caring parents and caregivers stimulate cognitive and language development in young children. Learning to talk is all about social interaction. To learn language children need to listen to someone talk and to talk to someone. Remember, children need to know that you are paying attention to them and that you value them and what they have to say. What better way is there to show your interest in your children than by taking the time to have a conversation with them.

Talk with Infants

Infant behaviours such as smiling, cooing and vocalizing serve as conversation starters for babies. We need to be responsive to these cues and do so by talking with infants and babies in soothing voices and by making frequent eye contact. We often hear parents and teachers talking to babies in their care in a different way. Adults seem programmed to adapt their speech to help in communicating with infants. This distinctive speech style is called “motherese” or “parentese”. “Parentese” seems to help infants hear and make sense of the stream of language sounds they find themselves in.

Talk with Toddlers

Children this age need to hear simple language that is clear and easy to understand. Adults need to remember to enunciate words clearly with children of this age. To learn to speak clearly and to begin to understand how the sounds of language work (phonological awareness) toddlers have to hear the sounds in words and to see how mouths are shaped when the sound is being vocalized. Try to use children’s names when talking with them. This helps to personalize the conversation and build self-identity. Infants and toddlers benefit from trips around their home and preschool centre as well as from field trips beyond. Trips like this are a gold mine for vocabulary development and general learning opportunities.

Talk with Preschoolers

Preschoolers’ language development can be stimulated and enhanced by, story reading and telling, singing songs, saying rhymes, and especially by talking with parents, caregivers and other children. Talk with children about what they are doing and seeing. Remember to talk with children in the full range of adult language including past and future tenses. Encourage conversations between children and adults. Try to help young children become comfortable talking to new people in different settings. Visit different places where they can meet and talk with a variety of people. Encourage children to use language in different ways. Children need to know how to ask questions, explain feelings and emotions. They need to talk about what they have done and to be able to describe things and events.