Which of the following should caregivers do to help young childrens vocabulary development

This article presents an overview of the process and mechanics of language development, along with implications for practice.

When and how language is learned

Almost all children learn the rules of their language at an early age through use, and over time, without formal instruction. Thus one source for learning must be genetic. Humans beings are born to speak; they have an innate gift for figuring out the rules of the language used in their environment.

The environment itself is also a significant factor. Children learn the specific variety of language (dialect) that the important people around them speak.

Children do not, however, learn only by imitating those around them. We know that children work through linguistic rules on their own because they use forms that adults never use, such as "I goed there before" or "I see your feets." Children eventually learn the conventional forms, went and feet, as they sort out for themselves the exceptions to the rules of English syntax.

As with learning to walk, learning to talk requires time for development and practice in everyday situations. Constant correction of a child's speech is usually unproductive.

Children seem born not just to speak, but also to interact socially. Even before they use words, they use cries and gestures to convey meaning; they often understand the meanings that others convey. The point of learning language and interacting socially, then, is not to master rules, but to make connections with other people and to make sense of experiences (Wells, 1986).

In summary, language occurs through an interaction among genes (which hold innate tendencies to communicate and be sociable), environment, and the child's own thinking abilities.

When children develop abilities is always a difficult question to answer. In general…

  • Children say their first words between 12 and 18 months of age.
  • They begin to use complex sentences by the age of 4 to 4 1/2 years.
  • By the time they start kindergarten, children know most of the fundamentals of their language, so that they are able to converse easily with someone who speaks as they do (that is, in their dialect).

As with other aspects of development, language acquisition is not predictable. One child may say her first word at 10 months, another at 20 months. One child may use complex sentences at 5 1/2 years, another at 3 years.

Oral language components

Oral language, the complex system that relates sounds to meanings, is made up of three components: the phonological, semantic, and syntactic (Lindfors, 1987).

The phonological component involves the rules for combining sounds. Speakers of English, for example, know that an English word can end, but not begin, with an -ng sound. We are not aware of our knowledge of these rules, but our ability to understand and pronounce English words demonstrates that we do know a vast number of rules.

The semantic component is made up of morphemes, the smallest units of meaning that may be combined with each other to make up words(for example, paper + s are the two morphemes that make up papers), and sentences (Brown, 1973). A dictionary contains the semantic component of a language, but also what words (and meanings) are important to the speakers of the language.

The syntactic component consists of the rules that enable us to combine morphemes into sentences. As soon as a child uses two morphemes together, as in "more cracker," she is using a syntactic rule about how morphemes are combined to convey meaning.

Like the rules making up the other components, syntactic rules become increasingly complex as the child develops. From combining two morphemes, the child goes on to combine words with suffixes or inflections (-s or -ing, as in papers and eating) and eventually creates questions, statements, commands, etc. She also learns to combine two ideas into one complex sentence, as in "I'll share my crackers if you share your juice."

Of course speakers of a language constantly use these three components of language together, usually in social situations. Some language experts would add a fourth component: pragmatics, which deals with rules of language use.

Pragmatic rules are part of our communicative competence, our ability to speak appropriately in different situations, for example, in a conversational way at home and in a more formal way at a job interview. Young children need to learn the ways of speaking in the day care center or school where, for example, teachers often ask rhetorical questions. Learning pragmatic rules is as important as learning the rules of the other components of language, since people are perceived and judged based on both what they say and when they say it.

Nurturing language development

Parents and caregivers need to remember that language in the great majority of individuals develops very efficiently. Adults should try not to focus on "problems," such as the inability to pronounce words as adults do (for example, when children pronounce r's like w's). Most children naturally outgrow such things, which are a tiny segment of the child's total repertoire of language.

However, if a child appears not to hear what others say to her; if family members and those closest to her find her difficult to understand; or if she is noticeably different in her communicative abilities from those in her age range, adults may want to seek advice from specialists in children's speech, language and hearing.

Teachers can help sustain natural language development by providing environments full of language development opportunities. Here are some general guidelines for teachers, parents, and other caregivers:

  • Understand that every child's language or dialect is worthy of respect as a valid system for communication. It reflects the identities, values, and experiences of the child's family and community.
  • Treat children as if they are conversationalists, even if they are not yet talking. Children learn very early about how conversations work (taking turns, looking attentively, using facial experiences with conversing adults.
  • Encourage interaction among children. Peer learning is an important part of language development, especially in mixed-age groups. Activities involving a wide range of materials should promote talk. There should be a balance between individual activities and those that nurture collaboration and discussion, such as dramatic play, block-building, book-sharing, or carpentry.
  • Remember that parents, caregivers, teachers, and guardians are the chief resources in language development. Children learn much from each other, but adults are the main conversationalists, questioners, listeners, responders, and sustainers of language development and growth in the child-care center or classroom.
  • Continue to encourage interaction as children come to understand written language. Children in the primary grades can keep developing oral abilities and skills by consulting with each other, raising questions, and providing information in varied situations. Every area of the curriculum is enhanced through language, so that classrooms full of active learners are hardly ever silent.

Talking with your baby or toddler can help their language and communication development. The more you talk with your baby or toddler, the better.

This is because parents who talk a lot to their young children use many different sounds and words. When children hear a lot of words and many different words, it improves their understanding of language. It also increases the number and variety of words that they understand and use.

And it’s not just about better language skills. Talking with babies helps their brains develop and can help children do better at school when they’re older.

What kind of talking is good for babies and toddlers?

Talking with babies and toddlers doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can talk to your child about hanging out the washing, preparing meals or whatever is happening around you.

For example, you’re outside with your child and they point to a tree. You could say, ‘It’s a great big enormous tree, isn’t it? I wonder what kind of animals live in that tree? Maybe a possum?’

The sing-song voice that many grown-ups use around babies is called ‘parentese’. It sounds a bit like this: ‘Helloooo babbeeee, who’s a widdle baaabeeee?’ Babies prefer this kind of talk to normal grown-up conversation. So go right ahead if you want to use parentese to talk to your baby.

How much talking is good for babies and toddlers?

Any and all talking is good for your baby or toddler, so try to talk as much as you can during the day. You don’t need to make a special time for talking.

Babies and toddlers like quiet times too, so if your child stops responding to you and starts to look tired, restless or grumpy, you might like to choose another time in the day to talk.

Your child’s temperament might also affect how often they want to communicate with you. Some babies and toddlers are naturally more outgoing, and others are quieter.

When to start talking with babies?

It’s great to start talking with your baby as early as you can. In fact, from birth your baby absorbs a huge amount of information about words and talking just from listening and watching you talk.

Conversations with your baby might feel one-sided to begin with. But even though your young baby doesn’t have words yet, your baby will be listening to you, and they’ll try to join the conversation! They’ll use crying, eye contact and listening to communicate. Later on, your baby will coo, smile, laugh, make more sounds and move their body to communicate with you.

If you pay attention to your child when you’re talking, you’ll notice this early baby talking and communication.

By communicating back and forth with your child in a warm and gentle way, you’re creating and sharing experiences together. This strengthens your relationship with your child and helps your child learn more about the world at the same time.

Tips for talking with babies and toddlers

You might feel silly having conversations with a baby or a toddler who’s not talking much, but keep at it! Conversations and activities that include some of the ideas below are good for developing your child’s language skills.

Tune into your child

  • Reduce distractions. Turn off the TV or computer or do whatever helps you to just ‘be present’ to talk to your child.
  • Notice what your child is interested in, ask a question or make a comment, and then give your child time to respond. For example, at bath time you could say, ‘Is that Ducky? Ducky’s swimming. Splash!’
  • As your child learns to talk, give your child time to find words for their ideas and really listen when they talk. For example, try not to finish your child’s sentences, and make sure your child is finished before you talk. This sends the message that what your child has to say matters.
  • Use natural pauses. Your child will eventually fill in these pauses when their language develops. This also teaches your child ‘give and take’ in a conversation.

Be interesting

  • Talk to your child about things they’re interested in – for example, what grandpa might be doing today, a story you’ve read together, or something that’s happening outside.
  • Talk about an experience you shared – for example, ‘It’s sunny today. But remember how wet we got on the way home yesterday? Your socks were soaked!’
  • Use a lot of expression to make your conversation interesting and engaging. What you talk about doesn’t matter as much as how you talk about it.
  • If you use complex words, explain them and build on them by using lots of descriptive words. For example, ‘We’re going to see the paediatrician – that’s a special doctor who knows all about babies and children’.

Read, tell stories, sing songs and make rhymes

  • Read books and tell stories to your baby from birth, every day if you can. After a few weeks, your baby will know that this is when you enjoy a quiet, special time together.
  • Talk about the pictures in books, wonder out loud what might happen next in the story, point out words and letters, and let your child touch and hold the book and turn the pages. You can make up your own stories to go with the pictures in the book.
  • Help your child learn that books and reading are fun. You can do this by having a special reading spot, making cuddles part of reading time and letting your child choose some books – even if you have to read the same ones over and over again!
  • Sing songs and rhymes in the car, in the bath, at bedtime – even if it’s off-key. Your baby will love the rhythm of the words and will be soothed by your voice. You can check out our Baby Karaoke for ideas.

Your child will also learn to talk by watching how you communicate with others. If you talk in a positive way, your child will learn to speak positively to others. For example, when you’re talking together at mealtimes, you can use positive language like ‘What was good about your day today?’