Anne E. Mead, M. Ed.
As a parent or caregiver, what can I do about building early word knowledge and conversation? There are many activities that parents can engage in to help their children learn new words and increase their vocabulary. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, the actual speaking part is the most important. Young children can learn two languages at the same time. Children develop their sense of understanding spoken words or their receptive language first. You may think they are not learning because they do not talk back, but they are listening and thinking about what you have said. Later, around 18-24 months, children develop their expressive language, in which they respond to you.
Let’s first talk about building your child’s word knowledge. From birth, babies recognize familiar sounds in the home-the voice of the mother or father or a sibling. Cooing, interacting, having eye contact and reacting to their talk are very important. From my own research, video games that claim to increase language often delay it. Eye contact with your child is key to helping develop your child’s skills. Children who are shown positive reinforcement when they talk will talk more! As your children grow, have conversations with them, tell them stories about your childhood and ask them questions.
Read to your child many times a day. Reading helps expand children’s vocabulary and thoughts about concepts. Point out the pictures and label what they are. Make comparisons about similarities and differences, such as both a dog and horse have four legs and a tail but a horse has a mane; the dog doesn’t. Have your child draw a picture about a recently read story and describe what he drew. When you are grocery-shopping, point out letters on packages and label the name of the fruits and vegetables. Play card games: Go Fish and Old Maid or board games like Candyland or Boogle.
Sing with your child several times a day to develop her ability to hear different sounds. Make up silly songs that rhyme. Have a parade around your home using pan lids and spoons. Lay on the grass outside with your child to talk about the sounds you hear-a fire truck’s siren, a loud car and children playing, or talk about the shapes of the clouds. Read “It looked like Split Milk,” written by Charles Shaw.
There are many resources in Danbury to add to your home reading library. The Danbury Library has a wealth of resources to borrow as well as story hours. The Danbury Family Learning Center (DFLC) has new books to buy for $1.00 each and playgroups, items to borrow and family education. If you are concerned about your child’s development, the DFLC offers the Ages and Stages Developmental Survey. This survey is done during times when you are playing with your child and results are given immediately; you are also given activities to do at home. For more information, call 203-797-4734.
From the DFLC, Happy Holidays to all of our readers.
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed. is the Administrator for Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.