As a parent, you and you alone play the biggest and most crucial role of all when it comes to your child’s development. This is no truer than in the example of speech and language development as while there will always be a part to play by teachers, friends and perhaps the professional speech and language therapist, the vast majority of skills, talents and habits your child picks up will come from you and you alone.
Suffice to say, it’s a pretty enormous load to bear and one that no parent takes lightly. Unsurprisingly, the Internet has become something of an instinctive go-to for parents looking for helpful advice and guidance on the subject of nurturing strong starts. And there is of course an enormous archive of helpful advice to be found – the only problem being that it is somewhat diluted by an even larger archive of counterproductive advice.
Realistically, common sense tells us that the only advice we should heed is that which is sourced by right from the professionals. So in terms of the guidance experienced childhood speech and language development experts offer, exactly what can parents do throughout their kids’ childhood in general to nurture the strongest starts possible and continually build their abilities with speech and language?
1 – Talk, Talk and Talk Some More
Well, first and foremost, it’s a good idea to bear in mind that as is the case with largely every other activity on the face of the earth, practice makes perfect. It’s all well and good to provide your kids with all the fantastic learning materials in the world and a genuinely caring and nurturing environment, but unless yours is a household where talking is something that continues on a relatively non-stop basis, your kids simply will not be given as much opportunity to practice as they could be. Hearing your voice allows them to pick up new words and speech skills, while speaking gives them the opportunity to practice their skills and build their confidence.
2 – Encourage Reading
Never forget that many of the habits we get into during our earliest years tend to be habits that stick with us for life. The things we get into as kids often become our passions as teenagers and adults, while the things we develop a distaste for have the potential to lead to life-long avoidance. Needless to say therefore, the importance of encouraging your kids to read as much as possible as often as possible cannot be overstated. Books are simply the finest tools in the world for building language skills and enhancing a vocabulary.
3 – Celebrate Their Interests
A quick tip but an effective tip nonetheless, be sure to follow your child’s lead each and every time they make it apparent that something has captured their attention and imagination. If for example while reading a story they seem to develop an instant fixation with a tractor, focus on the tractor with conversation, questions and pictures of other tractors.
4 – Encourage Without Criticising
It’s also important to understand the difference between encouraging your child to speak correctly and criticising their current speech and language skills. It’s pretty common for parents to accidentally stray into the latter half of the spectrum from time to time, as when a child continues to make the same mistake over and over again, instinct may tell you to inform them what they are saying is wrong. Nevertheless, this can have a negative effect on their confidence which is why it’s a much better idea to encourage them in the right direction simply by repeating what it was they said incorrectly in the correct manner. Praise them for trying so hard in the first place and always lead by example.
5 – Avoid Technology Overdoses
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, kids over the age of two years should be allowed to watch no more than a couple of hours of TV each day of which 100% of it is quality, educational programs. Kids under the age of two however are not recommended to be given any real TV time at all for the simple reason that the way in which they benefit from other activities and interactions is simply superior. An overdose of technology can lead to complacency where instead of making their own entertainment and activities, kids expect to just sit there and be spoon fed.
6 – Take Trips
Last but not least, everybody knows how beneficial a change of scenery can be and this applies just as much when it comes to nurturing strong speech and language development in kids of all ages. After all, if they respond with genuine excitement and enthusiasm to a picture book featuring exotic animals, just wait until you see how their eyes and imaginations light up when they see them up-close and personal at the zoo.