Children and Speech Development

Long before children are able to talk coherently, they have been listening to and absorbing EVERYTHING they hear. Often we, especially the parents, aren’t even aware that a child is doing so. Or we think they are too young to understand anyway… Once they start talking however this becomes apparent.

It is strongly advisable NOT to talk with babys/toddlers in baby talk, or treat them like they are somehow below us. We need to talk to our children with respect and with clear and precise vocabulary, paying particular attention to the pronunciation of words, not swallowing or missing out letters. If you want your child to be well spoken then you must set a good example and talk with your child exactly as you want to be spoken to and exactly as you would like them to speak. (The same applies to behaviour as well. Behaviour breeds behaviour! If you are positive, the child will be. If you are negative, likewise the child will be!). This all must be done earlier than perhaps previously deemed necessary. Babies, even before birth, can hear what is going on in the outside world and this adds to their language skills. This continues to play an important role in the child’s experience in the first months and years ahead. At this age children show an unearthly ability to absorb language in all its complexities, and not just one language! A child is greatly helped in the development of good language skills by being included in our conversation from the very beginning. We must listen and speak respectfully with our children from birth on. The way we talk with one another is also important. We need to set good examples. A child’s spoken language is generally the foundation for their later ability in reading and writing. Obviously there are those who can talk amazingly yet struggle with spelling. The pleasure and fun of exploring language begins early, and is the most intense, in the first three years of life.

Listen to your child

The attention we give a child when he first begins to talk to us is important. I love the stage of them talking when no one but you and close relatives/friends can understand them. This hasn’t happened with our 2 children (age 10 and 2), but occasionally children can become so excited about their ability to talk and being able to express themselves that they stutter. This is a very natural stage when learning to talk. It is signal for the adult to stop, listen and look the child in they eyes, giving their offspring their full attention. Missing words should NOT be supplied. The stutter should NOT be commented on. A child that feels listened to in a respectful manner generally calms down and develops the ability to speak more clearly..

Your Help

To be successful in language a child needs confidence that what they have to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing.

A child’s language development will be aided and enriched by providing a richly stimulating environment, with plenty of sensory experiences. Language is meaningless if it is not based on experience.

Experiencing real objects should come before pictures or names of these objects whenever possible. E.g. if you have a new book with pictures of fruits and vegetables, let the child handle, smell, cut up, and taste a piece of fruit. Then go and look at a picture of it, and other fruits, in the book. The intelligence is then founded on first hand experience. Like our 22 month old son (and his big sister years before him) would spend ages looking at them chunky small books with an animal per page, you know the type. The animals he had never seen in real life he would brush over quite quickly, but would linger on animals he knew from experience like bunnies, dogs, cats, cows etc. Then one day after going to the zoo and seeing a zebra/giraffe etc for real he was suddenly totally interested in these pictures too.

Children want to learn the name of every object in their environments, and the meanings of the words that are heard. Children are so eager to be able to communicate about daily life with their family and others they know! Name everything in sight, whether in the home or out of the home, to your child, point, clearly pronounce the word(s) of kitchen objects, toys, food, vehicles, trees, ants, butterflies, flowers, clouds, airplanes, glasses, cups, cutlery, crockery, electrical items, cats, horses, cushions, blankets, pillows, pictures, jewellery items, clothing items, dogs, etc.

If you are bilingual (like my family) speak your 2nd language with them ALL THE TIME. They will pick English up from everyone else around them.

On a final note – Remember: Children are ALWAYS Listening

Related link – Extending Children’s Vocabulary with Picture Books and Stories

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