How can parents encourage language development during infancy?

Written by elisabeth gourbiere
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How can parents encourage language development during infancy?
Parent reading to a child (reading with dad image by Renata Osinska from Fotolia.com)

Language development is crucial to the social, emotional and educational growth of a child. Parents can encourage language development in many ways from early infancy. Providing a child with a language-rich environment is important, as much of a child's progress in speech and language can be attributed to exposure, through which the child's observation of language patterns leads to practice through imitation.

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Gestures

Communicating through gestures is an important part of a child's early language development. Such simple gestures as waving bye-bye or the hand motions that accompany many nursery rhymes can help a child to understand the connection between movement and meaning. Some parents find that teaching a baby as young as six months old a simplified sign language can help a child to learn to communicate more quickly and with less frustration.

Speaking

One of the most significant ways parents can encourage children to speak is by speaking to them. When spending time with their babies, parents should keep up a running commentary of everything they see and do. They can involve their children in everyday activities---for example, putting them in the bouncy chair in the kitchen while they're cooking and explaining the recipe step-by-step. Or, they can take a walk outside and describe all the things they see along the way. The more language children hear, the more they file away for later use.

Repetition

Once children start attempting to use language themselves, parents should use repetition as a way to support their efforts. Even by repeating those first syllables a baby produces, a parent is showing the child that communication is interactive and provokes a response. The parent is also modelling correct use of sounds, syllables and words.

Reading

Reading to children is hugely significant for learning language. Parents should read to their children on a daily basis beginning as early as the first year, using age-appropriate books and making an effort to encourage interaction through pointing out and naming objects, colours and familiar characters. Hearing stories read aloud can help children to learn speech patterns as well as promote later reading comprehension skills.

Support Materials

In addition to their own supportive behaviours, parents can provide their children with additional materials that will enhance language development. A child-focused CD of songs, nursery rhymes or stories can capture a young child's attention and provide a plentiful source of language input. Interactive toys or DVDs with child-friendly characters and language (used on a limited basis) can also be helpful.

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