How Your Child Learns New Words

Babies communicate from the moment they are born. They cry when they are hungry, they coo when they are content. Talking to your baby from day one is a crucial practice in language development. When it comes to learning language and learning new words, silence is not golden.

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.

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. In the infancy months, repeat syllables for your child, such as “mamama” and “bababa” as they begin to use new sounds. Soon, those syllables will expand into words and then phrases.

It’s not unusual for a parent to name a person/object a few times within a conversation to reinforce the word. For example, “Look at that truck, the truck is so big, wave hi to the truck!” Younger children (particularly 4 to 18 months) benefit from repetition 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). Short Phrases and Expansion- 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. For example:

Child: Cookie!
Mom: You want a cookie? Mmm, eat cookie... crunch crunch. Mama eats cookie too.

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. Think about the events in your day... you probably most remember a fire drill or something else of urgency. 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!



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