One major factor in a child’s success in learning language is the early exposure to language that a child receives. The language that parents and teachers model is by far the most crucial component to this early exposure, so we must strive to model the very best for our children at all times! Below are some suggestions for modeling language and supporting the very best in their language development:
Loose the baby talk: Teaching your children “baby talk” not only sends them the wrong message, but also deprives them of valuable opportunity to acquire useful knowledge that will benefit their communication skills. You can support your child’s emerging vocabulary by replacing words like “potty” with “toilet,” “ouchy” with “cut,” or “yucky” with “dirty.”
Recast: If you know that a word or phrase is new to your child, try to restate three repetitions to solidify the learning moment. If your child tells you, “I eated my hotdog,” you can answer, “Wow! You ate your hotdog! It looks to me like you ate all your hotdog! I ate my hotdog too!” Your child will be much less likely to use the word “eated,” after such an interaction!
Sportscast: For young children, you can put words to actions, giving more meaning to words by “sports-casting.” You can do this by simply speaking what you see your child doing, without really initiating a response or conversation. For example, as your child is cleaning up, you might say, “I see you’re putting all your cars back in the box. Wow, you put all of them away! Now you’re putting the blocks back into the bucket – you have the red ones, the green ones, wow, you’re cleaning all of them.” This may not immediately appear to accomplish much, but over time you’ll be surprised what your child retains.
Use variety: This means knowing your child’s vocabulary well, and knowing what words to use to keep them challenged. If you can, consciously try to incorporate a variety of different words of varying difficulty, and not just stick to the “easy language.”
Acquiring a robust vocabulary will make your children better speakers, communicators and friends, social/emotional development, confidence and joy of learning.
It is recommended that a high school student have a vocabulary of at least 40,000 words by the time they take their ACT exams. By the time your child turns 18-years-old, he/she will have lived a total of 6,570 days. This means that in order for your child to have the recommended vocabulary for the ACT exam, he/she will need to learn about six new words each and every day from birth. So please, talk to your children a lot!