I’m often asked, “how can I help my child improve his/her language.” To my opinion, although we live in the “new world of technology” and we have many more resources available to us now than ever before, we have lost the ability to communicate effectively with each other. When I compare the way I grew up, with family friends all around me, each contributing in their own way to my language development, I realize how much kids are missing out on today! My days used to consist of going to school, coming home doing my homework, then playing in the yard (or neighborhood’s street) with other kids trying to “create” something new or figure out how “nature” works by finding new insects, leaves, etc. My evening then would include “talk time” with my mom, where she would patiently answer my 101 questions regarding EVERYTHING I could think of, and lastly, bed time stories. Over the weekends, I remember even my grandfather would sit with us and read a book and we’d discuss what we read.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I had language ALL around me. Today I see kids talking MUCH less and PLAYING much more. By playing I mean using technology. Yes, my 4-year-old nephew knows how to use the computer and smoothly “surf” the net, much better than even me. I often find myself asking him to “show me” how to operate something on the computer, DS, itouch, etc. It never seems to amaze me when he comes and asks me if I’ve heard of the new toy in the market!!! I’m ashamed at times when I can’t do a simple math computation without the use of a calculator where in my childhood my brain calculated everything much more accurately and quicker than my hand reaching for a calculator. I’ve noticed even a “regression” in my own brain’s ability to solve, reason, analyze and much more today than when I was younger! I find myself thinking, well I don’t need to “know” this, I can just find the answer when I need it by a touch of a button.
Although, kids have many more resources and are growing technologically, they’re spending much less time “TALKING” to one-another and learning from their surrounding. Most of the new language they learn, I believe come from TV shows, computer instructions, and/or games that have characters talking. Even road trip mini conversations have now been replaced by cartoons in the car to keep children “engaged”!!!
Kids learn when they are taught. When talking to your children and their just learning language you can help build it by adding on to their sentences. When your chid points and says “car go,” you can respond by saying “yes, that’s right, RED CAR IS GOING,” or “I SEE THE CAR GO.” Kids learn best by imitation and repetition. I remember my teacher always mentioning to us “repetition is the hallmark of education.” It is true! We learn best by repeating something over and over, until it becomes second nature. When playing blocks with your child, teach them propositions by saying: “put red block on top,” “give me the yellow block that’s behind the blue one,” “put red block in the box,” “the green block is under the red block,” “take all the blocks out of the box” and so on. You can work on colors, propositions, following directions and your spending time with your kids all at the same time. You can even work on sizes by having different size blocks: “give me the small green block.”
You can work on propositions, sizes, colors, sounds and names when playing with farm toys and farm animals: “the big brown cow is next to the pony, they’re eating and playing on the grass, the doggie is playing with her puppies in the basket,” etc. Notice, you’re modeling correct grammar using present tenses, possessives and also working on what “baby animals” are called.
If your child likes to play with cars, you can do the same type of activities where you’re working on colors, sizes, propositions, and also speed.
The key is finding what your child likes and interests them enough to want to participate in the game. Once you’ve gotten their attention with their favorite toy, they’re all yours and ready to learn!!!