Between the ages of 2 and 3 your child's vocabulary will sky rocket! By the age of 2 the average toddler will know between 20 and 200 words but by 3 years they could be saying around 1,000.
This does not happen by itself. Parents are their child's first teacher and play an essential role in supporting language development.
So what could you do to help?
1. Get down to your child's level.
Would you bother talking if you felt no-one was listening? I know I wouldn't. It's so easy to get swept up in day to day chores but taking the time to show your child that you are actively listening will show them that they are important.
By crouching down your child will also be able to see your lips. This is how children learn to say the sounds they need to produce to make words. That is why children learn to say sounds in such a predictable pattern. The first sounds produced are the ones they can easily see someone saying as they are produced by moving the lips (P, B and M).
2. Slow down.
If your child is struggling with his language then think about the speed in which you are talking. Try to slow down and emphasise the most important words in the sentence, again making sure your child can see your lips.
It is also important to slow down life and give time to developing your child's language. Your child will learn most of their language through everyday routines and activities. Try and find time to sit together as a family at the table during meal time and discuss your day. Talk about what you can see as you are walking down the road. Discuss the sounds the water makes as it splashes in the bath. All these things are activities you do everyday but such amazing learning opportunities.
3. Stop, wait and listen.
Everything is so instant nowadays. We actually have to wait for very little. However it is so important to give your child time to finish what they are saying. We have all been there, there are stories that take forever to complete or giant pauses that are so tempting to fill. By jumping in and finishing your child's sentences or stories you are actually robbing them of such good experiences.
It is also important to not assume your child does not know the answer to a question you have asked when they take a while to answer. It takes time for your child to process what you have asked them and then to formulate the words to respond. Give them that time and you may be surprised at how much they know!
Think carefully about the toys you buy. You may think that those flashy, plastic toys that boast that they improve language skills or help to develop number or phonetic knowledge would be best but think again. These toys are very limiting in the language they can initiate. Look more for open ended toys such as wooden blocks, farm animals, dolls etc. These toys support imagination and allow children to create their own stories and promote language. Spend time watching your child play with some of these open ended toys and you may be surprised at how much they do say!
Play alongside your child and dictate everything they do with their toy, it'll give meaning to what you are saying and help link actions to words. It's very easy to step in and adapt the play to what you think they should be doing with the toy but try not to. Who cares if the car is flying?
The amount of time your child spends in front of a screen (iPad, tv, mobile phone) should also be thought carefully about but that is a discussion for another day...
5. Read, Read and READ!
I am sure you have heard this a million times but the importances of reading can never be over estimated. Encourage your child to develop a love of reading and enjoy picking up a book. Discuss the pictures, the characters and make predictions about the ending. Your child will hear language in books that they don't come across day to day helping them to expand their vocabulary. When reading rhyming books leave out words and see if your child can guess what the word might be. Your child will soon develop a love for a particular book and you will both be able to recite it off by heart!
What do you do to encourage language at home? We would love to hear from you.