There is a joke many parents make that they spend the first year of their baby’s life encouraging them to talk and then the next 10 asking them to be quiet again.
But kidding aside, that moment when they utter that first word is a memorable one (even if it turns out to be something really uninteresting like shoes) and parents are often keen to make sure they do everything they can to help their kids as they develop from babies to toddlers.
Here’re some things you can do.
Typically a child says their first word around their first birthday. Over the following months, they will do things like gesticulating and changing their tone to indicate a question. Putting too much pressure on your child and yourself to talk will just turn it into a chore for everyone, so make sure you’re not expecting more than they are likely to be capable of. Even if they are not quite hitting these marks, remember that this is a rough guide, and each child will develop at their own pace. That said, if you are concerned about your child’s language skills, you can ask your doctor or early childhood nurse about what you should do (or get reassurance). Also have a chat with your childcare teacher, because they can give you an indication of where your child fits in with kids of a similar age group.
2. Talk to Your Child…a lot.
You don’t have to sit down and formally “teach” young children words, just make it part of your life. Sometimes you might find yourself chatting through every step of the day with your child and wondering if it makes you sound like a weirdo. But with plenty of exposure to “now we are going to put on our shoes and go to the park” type statements, your child will absorb more words and eventually grasp their meanings. Just try to break the habit when you start hanging out with adults. Nobody needs to know that mummy or daddy “needs to go to the toilet”.
Parents are often juggling so many tasks that it can be difficult to pay complete attention to any one thing at a time. But it’s important to make sure that you actively engage with your child when they are talking. As much as possible, stop what you are doing and use verbal cues and facial expressions to let your child know you are paying attention to what they are saying.
There are plenty of fun ways to help your child develop their speech. If you are playing a game, try and involve speech, such as encouraging them to ask for a piece of a puzzle or playing hide and seek with an object and asking them to find it. Give children options, such as offering them a red or blue block when building and ask them which one they want with descriptive dialogue.
Reading out loud is a fantastic way to develop your child’s speech and help link the written word and sounds in your child’s growing mind. And while it might be slightly painful if your child has a favourite book that they like you to read again and again (especially if you don’t share their love of it), repetition is a great tool. If you are learning something new, you rarely grasp it all on the first go and your child is no different.
6. Don’t Get Too Hung Up On Correction
Especially in the initial stages, what matters is that they are giving it a go. So you don’t necessarily have to correct them if they don’t quite make the right sound at the beginning of the word or something like that. Saying “yes” and repeating the word back to them correctly is all you need to do.
If you have any questions about what Caring4Kids can do for your child, please contact us.