BABIES & TODDLERS:
Surround Them in Oral Language
Oral language is the foundation of reading. Children need interactive language - meaning there is a give-and-take or exchange. Note the word interactive! Plopping a child in front of the television or an IPad is largely passive, and not interactive. So what does this mean? For a brief understanding of oral language, its development, and importance, read this awesome article 'Young Children's Oral Language Development' from Reading Rockets. Or how about 'Understanding Your Baby's Language Development' from Parents Magazine? I'm saving the best for last with this resource 'How to Support Your Child's Communication Skills' from Zero to Three.
Here are some concrete tips...
Singing counts. Check out 'Ten Ways Babies Learn When We Sing to Them'
Use sophisticated language. I love Sesame Street, but it makes me crazy that Elmo refers to himself in third person. Try to remember to say, "Give me the ball," not "Give Mommy the ball." Our young children can understand the first person pronouns.
Expand / embellish upon their language. So if your toddler asks why they have to eat his broccoli, don't just say, "Yes." Add in, "Yes you have to eat your broccoli because it has nutrients and vitamins to help you build muscles and strong bones."
With children above the age of 2.5, avoid the temptation of using 'baby talk'. All of our children have some version of a word, that we repeat to them. For my daughter, she said "Chebuh" instead of "Ketchup". Instead of repeating it (even though it's cute!), use the proper name. You might even help them learn the correct way to say the word, like we do in this video.