Every mom and dad wish and pray thousand times that the first words that comes out of their baby’s mouth be their name. The joy of hearing the first ‘mama’ ‘dada’ ‘papa’ or ‘amma’ can be priceless. Even though we all love to hear our baby blabber, not many parents realize the importance of developing vocabulary to enhance the language development of their child which will lead to literacy skills required for academic success in future.
Children need the guidance and help of adults to learn new words and build up their vocabulary. The simple everyday conversations we have with baby, the gurgling interactions in the initial months play a significant role in language development of a baby.
When to start
You don’t have to wait for a time period to start talking to your baby. Babies are in fact programmed to develop speech and language from birth on.
It is important to give extra attention to language development in the first five years, since this period is most crucial for your child, even though language development continues throughout early childhood and on into adolescence as well.
It is known that the brain of a child develops 90% in the first five years, and the most critical shaping of the child's brain architecture takes place in the first three years of their life.
The early language exposure has a direct impact on the language development and literary skills in later years. This is the time when the new nerve cells are formed and multiple connections created between nerve cells for languages. Parents have to concentrate on improving both the expressive and receptive communication skills in their child.
Development of vocabulary skills
As your baby grows, start using words and tell him/her what it means. Many parents fear that there will be problem of plenty if they expose their child to more words. But, recent studies have proven that children aged 12-24 months benefit from hearing lots of words and it is good to expose them to lot of talk.
At the age of 2-3 years, children can be taught to use more complicated and specific words as well. As you wean a child from liquids or breast milk, you may have to wean them off the personal cuddly words they use. Don’t be scared to introduce more difficult words to your child, because they can pick up more words than you know.
After 3 years of age, you can concentrate of sentence forming for your child. You do not have to look for perfect grammar, but you can always help them create sentences in a right way. Take advantage of the ‘why’ questions to explain things around to your child.
Quantity VS quality
It is not just enough to expose your child to new words; it is highly important that you maintain quality of the talk as well. How to say, when to say, how loud are some of the good communication lessons a child can pick up from parents.
Parents who give complete attention to what the child is saying are more encouraging for the child to speak. It is also important to have patience. A child will have to hear a word nth number of time before saying it out loud.
Just because quantity of words is helpful, parents should not just keep talking to child continuously. In fact, the conversation should be animated and interesting for the child, moreover, it should be two-way process as well.
Once you say something, wait for your child to respond and give an answer. Then continue the conversation, so that the child will have his/her say as well. The more facial expressions, gestures or actions you accompany with your words, the more clearly your child will understand you.
Keep track of the milestones and watch out for any language or speech delay in your child, which can be a clue to some underlying issue in your child. Early detection and intervention can make huge difference to the outcome.