Learning words and language is innate... it just happens. Though it may be at a different pace than some of their peers, or maybe a bit slower than anticipated... they will find their own way of communicating with you. Though when it comes to learning new words... silence is NOT golden.
Using these 5 basic techniques are great ways to reinforce language and word learning in your budding communicator:
1. Repetition - one of the most basic learning techniques! Children need multiple exposures to a sound or word to fully develop the concept. Start with repeating syllables ("mamama," "dadada"), and soon, those syllables will expand into words and then phrases. Younger children (particularly 4 to 18 months) benefit from repetition as learning the most.
2. Gestures- gestures can be used as a bridge to verbal communication, and pave the way to learning speech. When your child is able to use gestures or basic signs to convey a message, or request, verbal language typically follows more rapidly. Parents can use gestures such as pointing, waving, or basic signs to reinforce verbal communication.
3. Expanding Sentences- As your toddler begins to use meaningful sounds and words to comment or request, expanding on their single words is a great way to teach grammar and new vocabulary. Using short phrases (such as a verb+noun: eat cookie) can help your child distinguish basic grammar for language learning.
4. Pictures- some of us are visual learners, and the same is true for kids! You can use pictures of family members or picture books to reinforce names and vocabulary. Pointing and naming pictures can teach children that words have meaning. Pictures can help a child understand a different part of the world and teach them novel words and concepts that they might not be exposed to otherwise. Pair repetition and sentence expansion with pictures for best results!
5. Exaggeration- exaggeration works when learning new words, because we have an emotional connection to pay attention to exaggerated events. Exaggerating facial expression can best a child words for emotion (i.e. happy, sad, surprised, tired). Using exaggerated adjectives (i.e., fast/slow, near/far, big/little) in play can help a child distinguish basic concepts for better word learning.
Coupling some of these basic learning methods in play, book reading, or daily routines can catapult your child’s speech and language development!