5 Ways to encourage language development in young children

Use these simple tips to help your tot develop rich language from the start.

baby language

One of the most miraculous developments we watch our children go through in the first years of life is the ability to communicate.

It can seem as if it’s pure magic, as these littlest tots go from having no language to exploding with new vocabulary each and every day.

What makes this even more rewarding to watch is knowing that we as the parents have a huge role to play in how our babies develop language. So what can we do to help them along, and more importantly, to show them that talking and reading are joyful parts of life that should be celebrated?

  1. Narrate life to your baby

Perhaps the best, and simplest, way to encourage language development in young children is to talk to your baby about what is going on around you. It may feel a bit as though you’re narrating a wildlife documentary at first, but it quickly becomes second nature.

Consistently telling your baby what you see, whether it’s the wind blowing leaves off the trees or different types of produce in the supermarket, will expose him to a wide variety of vocabulary every day.

  1. Use real words

People so often dumb down the language they use when talking to babies and toddlers, but this is the time when children are best able to absorb new words. Why not give them the correct language?

I’ll never forget when my young toddler asked for help with the “ellipse” (the straw, which is indeed shaped like an ellipse) on his water bottle.

These little ones really do absorb everything, so by exposing them to correct terminology and rich vocabulary, we are helping them develop strong language skills when it comes most naturally to them.

  1. Wait for, and mimic, response

It can seem silly to ask a baby a question and wait for a response.  Clearly, he’s not going to answer you, at least not in words.

However, asking your baby questions, such as “Would you like this toy?” or “Would you like to go for a walk?” and then waiting for a response models conversation for him.  This is especially great if he spends a lot of one on one time with you and may not hear as many full conversations.

If you do this regularly, you may be surprised by how young your baby can actually start to respond!  It may just be through reaching for something or smiling, but the response can be clear all the same.

If he does respond with a little coo or sound, try mimicking it back to him to let him know you heard and value his response.

  1. Read and sing

Reading and singing songs provide a different type of language exposure than simply talking.  They not only expose your child to new vocabulary that simply does not come up in everyday life, they also introduce concepts like rhythm and rhyming.

Don’t know any children’s songs?  That’s okay!  Sing whatever you like to listen to, as long as it’s appropriate of course.  Young children love to hear us sing and it doesn’t matter even a little bit whether or not you have a good singing voice.

For babies and toddlers, try choosing books about every day life.  Stories about things like getting dressed, going to the park, and trying new foods may be particularly interesting to young children as they capture what they experience in every day life.

  1. Use treasure baskets

Treasure baskets are used quite often with Montessori babies and they are very simple to put together.

A treasure basket is simply an assortment of objects, 5 or 6 is good, generally united by some sort of theme. The items are placed in a basket and put on the baby’s toy shelf for him to discover and explore.

You might have a basket of kitchen objects, nature objects, or green objects.  The theme doesn’t matter as long as it’s of interest to your baby.

After your baby explores the objects, name them for him. Whenever possible, it’s great to expose babies to the real version of something before a picture or a model (so a real whisk before a play whisk), but there are many every day objects that are simply out of your baby’s reach and line of sight.  Treasure baskets allow them to experience these items and learn the language.

Helping your young child develop language can feel like a big responsibility. The good news is they are born ready to learn these skills and to absorb everything they hear.  These are just a few things you can do to help your little tot along, and hopefully have some fun in the process!