Want your child to communicate effectively? Language acquisition comes in many forms and is especially influenced by baby’s environment and their interactions with others.
Have you ever heard of a frightful man, an emperor in the 13th Century, Frederick II? He was interested in the origin of language, forcing infants to be removed from their families, under care of nurses with strict orders of no interaction, cooing or speaking to. These babies lived a deprived life, dying of lack of love. Frederick never found out the origin of language and destroyed the lives of an unknown number of children and families.
Todays researchers are far more humane in their studies, and have discovered the value of the child’s social world in understanding and constructing language. Infant vocabulary development at 16 to 24 months of age has been linked to vocabulary, reading accuracy and reading comprehension five years later.
Interestingly, it’s not the sheer number of words that has been found to predict a child’s vocabulary growth, it’s mum’s language and literacy skills and the diversity of vocabulary used (in an age appropriate manner). Mothers who pointed frequently had children with a larger vocabulary.
Pointing is seen as a key component of the social aspects of language and lack of pointing, especially in the second year of life, has been identified as a problem in communication systems.
Point while you read! If you and your toddler are focused on a book together, you might say “See the doggie,” in which case pointing indicates to your child to look in the direction pointed to and connect ‘doggie’ to the image. Joint attention like this allows children to use social skills to acquire language.
Finally, a few basic tips:
- Play games, be an active conversation partner and try not to compare your baby with others’.
- Speak simply in a concrete and repetitive way. Slowing your pace will help baby hear the words in a world of endless sounds.
- Use parent-look and parent-gesture, naming what you are looking at.
- Use gestures like clapping when happy, or signing simple actions such cupping your hand towards your mouth as you say ‘drink’ will help baby communicate in return.
- Listen to your little one, try to be patient and not finish their sentences for them.
All data and research here from: Santrock, J.W. (2016). Life span development (16th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education (Australia) Pty Ltd: NSW.