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Language development in children: what you need to know

Language development is a very important part of your child’s overall development. Families help children to develop language. Being able to communicate well means that a child can express and understand feelings and thoughts. It also helps with thinking and problem-solving, and developing and maintaining relationships. Learning to understand, use and enjoy language is the critical first step in literacy, and the basis for learning to read and write.

Talking with babies helps their brains develop and can help children do better at school when they’re older. So when you talk with your little one, you are supporting their learning, and their future. The more you talk – the better!

How to encourage your child’s early language development

The best way to encourage your child’s speech and language development is to do lots of talking together about every day things as well as things that interest your child. Even when you can’t understand what your child is saying, they communicate with you by pointing, making noises, and waving – this is all important early communication.

Talking with your child

Talk to your baby as though they can understand you, from when they are a baby. You are starting to teach about language and how it works, and infants will need to understand language, before they can begin to speak. Talk in whatever language is your strongest language, children are very good at learning multiple languages, but they should begin with the language that the family speaks the most

Building your child’s language skills

When your child starts using words, you can repeat and build on what your child says. For example, if she says, ‘Apple,’ you can say, ‘Do you want to eat an apple?’

When you tune in and respond to your child, it encourages them to communicate. You’ll be amazed at how much they have to say, even before words develop.

Sharing the days

Talking about what’s happening in the family’s daily life is a great way to increase the number of words your child hears. You can talk about things that are happening, and things that are around you. For example, you can name all the food that you are eating for lunch, or talk about what you see outside – the trees, the sky, the grass. This will build lots of vocabulary and knowledge.

It doesn’t matter if your child doesn’t understand, this will change as they grow up, and you will be supporting language development to come more quickly.

Children: benefits of multilingualism and bilingualism

Children knowing two or more languages is linked to:

  • better academic results – this is because multilingual or bilingual children can often concentrate better, are better at solving problems, understand language structures better, and are better at multitasking
  • more diverse and interesting career opportunities later in life.

So, talk and read to your child in your strongest language, and this will provide the best grounding for their multi-language, language development

You can learn lots more about building children’s literacy at Raising Children and Raising Children – Languages Other Than English