It’s important to get your child’s language usage and thinking skills on track from the time they are born
Language is what connects us to everything and everyone around us. Without words, we cannot communicate with other people, we cannot make sense of what we experience and we cannot get the most out of life.
With this in mind, it’s important to get your child’s language usage and thinking skills on track from the moment that they are born so that language becomes an integral part of how they interact with their world.
1. Choose one dominant language in which to communicate
Although children only start to utter their first words around 12 months old, they become familiar with language even while they are in their mommy’s tummies, as they get to recognise their parents’ voices. Parents need to be aware that language understanding develops from birth, so it is important to start speaking to them from day one.
Perhaps the most important thing for parents to consider, however, is that your child will soon be using language not just to identify objects around them and express certain needs, but to think and to reason. Bearing this in mind, it is vital that moms and dads communicate with their little ones in only one language from the start.
While it is true that toddlers may be able to understand and even speak some words in different languages, this can often be confusing for them when they start to develop thinking and reasoning skills. Spoken language develops much quicker than our higher order reasoning ability.
For example, a young toddler may be able to identify and name objects around them, such as a window, but they need to have advanced cognitive skills in order to express the function of a window. These reasoning skills can only be fully developed if your child has a solid foundation of one language and can consolidate it in which to think.
Parents need to be aware that language understanding develops from birth, so it is important to start speaking to them from day one
It is up to parents to choose which language they would like to use to communicate with their little one. It obviously makes sense that they opt for a language that they use daily, know well, and will most likely be used at their crèche. Other languages can then be introduced at a later stage, from about two years old.
2. Use the correct form of the language
In order to give your child the best chance at developing excellent reasoning skills early on, parents need to ensure that they always use the correct form of the dominant language they have chosen when they communicate.
Our country has an amazing variety of cultures, which makes us wonderfully diverse, but which also inevitably leads to mixing of languages. This can cause great confusion for children when they are developing skills to think and reason. It is therefore important that parents choose a language of which they have a good knowledge.
Similarly, caregivers must also be careful to limit the amount of ‘baby talk’ they speak to their toddlers. Children should be encouraged to use language properly, and choose the correct words when interacting with the world around them.
Parents need to ensure that they always use the correct form of the dominant language they have chosen when they communicate
3. Encourage children to question the world around them
Language can only be fully developed through interaction with others. Parents should ensure that they continually use language to stimulate their child’s thinking and challenge them.
Of course the best way to help your child delight in language is to incorporate reading stories together into their daily routine. Choose books that are fun, colourful and interactive, so that your toddler is encouraged to engage with what they see on the page. Also be sure to be animated when reading, so your child will understand how language can be used to communicate different emotions.
Article by: Tshepiso Matentjie – Educational Psychologist, Pampers Institute of Experts
Pampers® is the world’s top selling brand of baby nappies. For more than 50 years, Pampers® has been helping to improve life for babies, toddlers, and the parents who care for them through a complete line of nappies, training pants, and wipes designed for every stage of baby’s development.