A question that many moms have is how to teach our children language and when do we start. A brilliant way to adopt this is teaching language through play.
When to start?
There is huge amount of research showing that children are geared towards learning language from the womb. We’ve all heard about new-born babies turning towards their mother’s voice. Babies are born with an intrinsic ability to learn language, but they must be put in an environment that fosters this. Start as early as possible.
How to start?
Language is a string of sounds and one of the best ways to grab a child’s attention is through nursery rhymes. Children love songs that talk about different things and have actions like “Row, row your boat”. All you’ll need is a small toy boat and some acting to row your hands together. Usually, pausing after the word and then doing the action or pointing at the toy, allows the child to make a link. There is a huge bank of songs out there to teach body parts with dolls or teddies (Head, shoulders, knees and toes) to random objects around the house (I’m a little teapot). Repetition is key.
How can we include this in our busy schedules?
At a young age, children are like sponges. Experts suggest starting with an aspect of language called “receptive”. This just means that the child is the listener and “receives” the language from another. However, use the language you are fluent in because learning, even if only one language correctly, is better than learning bits of many improper languages. Language and play at this stage are simple and do not require expensive items. A popular game is simply naming toys around the house. As you move around with your child, name absolutely everything. With time, add descriptions to make the “receptive” language more complex. Thus, start with “teddy” or “car”. A little after, elaborate to “fast, red car”. With time, add more words until you produce complete sentences. This same activity can be done anywhere. You can name objects in the park, out of a car window; with any activity like cooking, doing the laundry, or even driving. Really all you need are your eyes, some simple toys, and some self-confidence. Pointing to objects as you name them is a great way of consolidating the information.
In a few months, you’ll be surprised that all you need to do is ask the child to point to a “fast, red car”, he/she would easily point to it from a multitude of items! Kids are brilliant in that way and they can communicate with you long before they can actually talk.
Another easy game that children love teaches sequencing and order. Start with the child even before he/she can walk. Carry them and count the number of steps you take up a flight of stairs. As they get older and start to walk, hold their hands and count with them each step up or down they take. Many mommies report that their kids get such a good grasp of numbers by 1.5 years and the children can even spot if you’ve made an error or missed a number!
The best thing to do is to consider yourself a commentator or story narrator and as you play, just keep saying everything you are doing. As time goes by, words like “stand, ball, and sit” will move on to become “red ball and sit down”, and will increase a child’s vocabulary dramatically. They will learn difficult concepts like space, size, organization very organically. All you need to do is start as early as you can and get creative!