How To Encourage Oral Language Development
I had a very random conversation with our four-year-old today. In fact, we actually have wonderfully random conversations every day. Today as we were driving to school he asked me – “Where does a Judge work Mum?’
Firstly, I vaguely remember mentioning something to him once about a person who is called a Judge and decides if people go to jail. It was an off-hand ‘something’ I mentioned once.
This is how our chat went down in the car.
Me: A judge works in a court.
Him: Oh like a tennis court?
Me: (I may have had a little giggle) Not a tennis court mate, a courthouse. They sit in an important chair and decide what happens to people who have done the wrong thing.
Him: Like go to jail?
….and so the conversation continued as we discussed jail and paying fines and lawyers.
I believe we should talk to our children, explain things and actually answer the questions they have. When they are young, the curiosity and wonder they have for the world are infectious. As parents, we need to grab hold of that and make the most of it. Before we know it, we will be sitting at the traffic lights beside a 15-year-old who would rather be scrolling through his phone than talk to us at all.
What Can We Do To Help With Oral Language Development?
There are two aspects to the development of oral language. The first is speech and the second is the understanding of language. You can read more about these here.
Oral language development is crucial and happens when we actually chat with our children, answer their many questions and explain things. I don’t mean we need to give them every detail of the adult world. I mean, use vocabulary that is not ‘dumbed down’ for them. They can handle it.
The only way your child is going to learn how to speak is by modelling that from you. I once heard a lady say to her two-year-old ‘We went to the toilet in the potty today didn’t we?’
It made me wonder.
Who went to the toilet in the potty?
Both of them?
We are all guilty of this, but at the end of the day, the way we speak is the way our children will learn to speak.
So, how can we do this so that benefits their development?
Talk to Your Baby
When I first had a newborn I found it a bit weird to talk to him. I mean, he was tiny and I didn’t really know what to say. Even from a very young age, chatting with our children is vital. Explaining to your four-month-old that you are changing their nappy or that it is bath time is crucial to their oral development.
They are watching your mouth and lips, listening to the sounds you make and intonations of your voice. They are looking at your facial expressions and taking in the volume and expressions in your voice. This is all leading them to be able to speak and understand language.
Use Proper Vocabulary
When you are speaking with your child, try and use the appropriate vocabulary for a situation.
Why call it a digger when it is an excavator?
Why call it a baby cat when it is a kitten?
Using the appropriate word from the beginning actually prevents your child from having to relearn it at a later date. It also gives them the confidence to be able to engage in conversations with people of all ages.
Explain the Details
If your child asks you a question about something, find the time to explore and explain the answers with them. Today, with the answer to everything at hand, we can easily find a way to show them what they are curious about. Use youtube, books, the library, documentaries, excursion, diagrams and good old Google to help you research together.
If your child is truly interested in a topic, they will take any information on board and contain it like a sponge. Anyone who has met a dinosaur obsessed three-year-old can witness to that.
We all have children who say the cutest things the wrong way. My brother used to say ‘chopping trolley’ instead of shopping trolley and it still makes me smile to this day. As cute as it is, allowing words to be spoken incorrectly could end up becoming a bad habit to break. I am not suggesting ridiculing them and asking them to repeat the proper word three times. The best thing to do in situations like this is to repeat the word correctly after them.
“Yes, we need a shopping trolley don’t we?”
Music and Singing
My husband is one of those guys who sings everything or can find a song in his head about anything. It is something that I have caught off him. Music and singing are wonderful ways for children to learn about sound, speech, rhyme and rhythm. If I am honest (and I can’t believe I am publishing this) I was actually asked to leave the school choir in grade two. I wonder where that dear teacher is these days? In saying that, my son thinks I am a fantastic singer so if I can do it – you can too!
We honestly don’t realise that our everyday interactions, such as talking to our children are significant to their development. Don’t see this as pressure, see this as a privilege that you are the first and best teacher they are ever going to have. The honour you have of being there and making a difference to their development from the moment your child is born is a wonderful thing.