Parents and caregivers can help develop their children's language skills, with long-lasting effects on their later life outcomes. Well-supported children learn to speak and communicate better with others and have an easier time regulating their emotions, expressing their feelings and ideas, and interacting with their peers. Another great benefit is that kids with better language skills also have better reading skills and are more ready to be successful in school and later at work.
So, the importance of early language skills for lifelong achievement is clear, and parents, caregivers, and preschool teachers have a crucial role to play at this level. But how to do it well? Here are three efficient ways to help young children build solid language abilities.
1. Talk to and with your kids as often as possible
Talking to and with children is key to boosting their language learning, whatever their economic and cultural backgrounds. And both the quantity and the quality of the conversation are important. Kids who hear more words have a wider vocabulary and higher language skills. Even before being able to speak, children are already learning a lot from the language they hear around them. And the more sophisticated the language is, the better.
2. Read to and with your kids as often as possible
Shared book reading with children is the second major opportunity for their language development. It exposes them to new words and sentence structures. Book reading, in addition to the experience of high-quality language, allows for a unique bonding experience. Another crucial advantage: Reading with your kids will teach them to focus on a subject and pay attention for longer periods, which is the right path to extended and deeper learning.
3. Look for "serve and return" interactions with your kids
Any everyday interaction with a parent or early childhood educator should be used to improve a child's language abilities. And the more "sensitive" the educator is, the better. "Sensitive interactions" are often called "serve and return interactions" because they are like a tennis game. While the child "serves" a cue by saying something, pointing to something, or asking a question, the parent, caregiver, or teacher "returns" the serve by commenting, repeating, or responding to it. And as often in early education, the earlier, the better. Even babies can benefit from serve-and-return interactions.
Picture: A dad and his young child talking (ChildUp.com / DALL-E - 2022)