Language and literacy development is a vital aspect of child development and there are many things that parents, caregivers and early childhood educators can do to support and encourage young children in this area.
This article will be useful to anyone wanting more information on how they can support babies and young children with early language development.
Why language development in young children is vital
When a young child starts to understand, use and enjoy language, they’re taking a major step towards literacy and their ability to read and write. But language development is more than just sounds and words. In addition to supporting literacy development, language development supports many other crucial areas including cognitive and social skills.
Language development is powerful because it helps a child:
- express themselves
- understand feelings and responses
- learn to read and write
- develop relationships
- work out solutions and solve problems
Oral language skills that are learnt from a very early age set the foundation for the development of a range of skills which continues throughout childhood through adolescence and beyond. In fact, we never stop learning language and literacy skills - especially if reading is part of our everyday lives.
We’ll talk more about reading a little later in the article, but for now, let’s look at ways of encouraging your little one’s language development.
How to support a child’s language development
The best ways to help a young child with language skills are by talking and reading to - and with -them.
Talking with your child
Ongoing verbal communication with a young child is essential - and it should start from the minute they are born. Imitate the sounds they make. Babble and coo back to them. Use facial expressions and hand gestures to add depth to your communication. Also talk to them using simple words and sentences - and repeat these often. For example, you might say ‘Mummy’s here’, ‘time for a bottle’, ‘let’s change your nappy’, ‘say hello to the doggy’ etc.
Using the same words in different contexts is another good way to help your child learn how words work.
As the child gets older, they will start to say words and experiment with sentence construction. By responding to the child, repeating what they’ve said and building on it, parents and educators play a vital role in encouraging them to continue communicating and developing their language skills.
Ask questions. Probe for information and give them longer responses for words they say. For example, if your toddler says ‘cup’, you can ask ‘do you want some water in the cup?’. If they say ‘bird’, you can say ‘look at the bird flying’. This will help them expand their vocabulary.
Reading with your child
Just as it’s never too early to talk to your child, it’s never too early to read to them.
Books are a great way of demonstrating the link between oral language and the written word. Reading helps children learn that words are part of language, it introduces a variety of topics and helps them associate different words with pictures.
These are essential building blocks for developing literacy skills.
A book before bed time is a great routine to establish early on and is a good way of encouraging young children to develop their language and literacy skills.
Timelines for language development
Every child is unique and here at Evoke Early Learning, we understand that everyone learns and develops at their own pace.
That said, you may find the following timeline for language milestones helpful.
1 - 3 months
Babies start to gurgle and coo. Smiling generally starts around the six-week mark.
4 - 6 months
Babies start babbling and repeat monosyllabic sounds like da, da, da.
6 - 12 months
Babies start making unintelligible ‘speech’. They generally say their first recognisable words at around the one-year mark.
12 - 18 months
During this time, babies start to say words with meaning and their vocabularies grow. Remember, they understand far more than they say, so keep talking and reading - using proper sentences!
18 - 24 months
You will probably hear ‘sentences’ of two or three words at this stage and their pronunciation of words will improve. Your child will be able to follow simple instructions and they’ll understand what you are saying. You’ll also be able to make sense of their speech.
24 - 36 months
Children generally start constructing sentences containing three to four words during this timeframe and a stranger is likely to understand what they’re saying.
Why your choice of childcare provider is so important for a child’s literacy and language development
Professionally trained educators know that a strong foundation in the early years is critical for literacy and language development. Quality childcare and early learning centres will integrate and encourage books and reading into their daily curriculum and will work in tandem with parents and caregivers to give little ones the very best start in life.
Literacy and language have a significant impact and influence on a range of other life skills including cognitive and communication abilities and by putting strong building blocks in place early on, you are giving your child the best chance of healthy growth and development.
In fact, when you’re investigating childcare options, it’s a really good idea to discuss how the various centres approach literacy and language development. At our Evoke Early Learning Centres in Albert Park and Clayton, we advocate for the rights of all children, valuing and embracing each and every child as a unique individual and respecting children as active members of society. Our centres are welcoming and nurturing spaces, full of warmth, love and respect which encourage healthy relationships, strong communication, respectful collaboration and exploration through play. Book your tour today.