For BABIES, experts recommend that you speak in “Parentese”, with a high pitch and very clear words, until the age of 9 months. Parentese is not baby talk and it actually makes language more intelligible. Other things you should do:
- When your baby babbles, copy the sounds.
- Ask your baby questions and then answer them.
- Let your baby look in a mirror and ask, “Who’s that?”, then say your baby’s name.
- Hold your baby close so he can look in your eyes. Talk to him and remember to smile.
With TODDLERS, narrate your day and talk while you are doing everyday things. Explain the what, the why and how of your daily routines (“I’m putting the clothes in the washer and then I’m adding detergent so the clothes can get clean). Other things you should do:
- Get your toddler talking. Playing games like “Simon Says” or “Where’s your nose?” (or other body part) helps them learn vocabulary through real-life experiences.
- Go for a walk, get down on your child’s level and look at the bugs, grass, rocks, dirt, leaves, etc. If you pick something up, talk about how it feels, how it looks, what color and shape it is.
- Expand on what your child says. If they say, “ball”, you say back, “Yes, that is a red ball”.
Language is still developing in the PRESCHOOLER so encourage children to talk about what they did during their day, what they know about certain topics and what they predict might happen in a certain situation.
- Begin talking about letters, starting with the first letter in the child’s name. Find other words in the child’s world that start the the same letter.
- Make observations as you compare items with your child. What is alike, what is different, how can items be sorted?
- Encourage children to talk out their problems and resolve conflicts with words. Also, help by giving them words for feelings that occur throughout their day.
For more info and ideas: Center for Early Literacy Learning Parent Guide