One of the exciting parts of my day is listening to the brand new words that are coming out of my 21 month old daughters mouth. Most of these are words I can not quite understand and a lot of them I know because of context. This is the age that language is exploding for her. She gets really excited about what I would consider a non-event. For instance if she notices that a door is open, she will tell me “Door open.” while smiling and clapping. How truly exciting: she notices something and knows how to express it with another human!
Here are a few things I consciously do to fan this language explosion. (These may seem like simple and obvious things, but I assure you they are critical.)
I have conversations with her. We talk about what is happening around us. I tell her what I am doing. When she talks to me, I listen. I try to understand what she is saying. Sometimes this means I ask questions until I get it right, and sometimes it means just repeating back to her what I think she is saying.
We keep the language consistent. Most of the time we use the same words for the same objects. For instance, a cup is always referred to as a cup and not as a glass.
I try to be a good model of language. We model proper grammar and try to be conscious of conversational tone as well.
We read together. I try to spend time with her on a daily basis to read books. We look at pictures and talk about them. I give her the names of nearly everything we see in those pictures.
When I talk to her I speak slowly and let her see my mouth. I realize that sometimes I talk fast. Sometimes I probably talk much faster than she can understand. When I can think of it and am able to do it, I slow down my speech and let her see my mouth.
We listen to music and sing. I notice that when we are talking, she is singing. Again, I don’t necessarily understand the words but I do get the tune. Music is another language.
Developing language skills is such a fun stage in a child’s life to be witness to. It provides so many opportunities to build a foundation of trust and respect as well. As new language emerges, as parents we can almost see and hear those brains growing and rewiring. It truly is incredible!
When you think about your young one’s explosion into spoken language, what did you do to help this process along?